midfield lynchpin Diego Chara
gave teammate Ben Zemanski
a dramatic early birthday gift May 11.
In the Timbers' 1-1 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Chara broke his wrist, and the injury means Zemanski, his understudy who turned 26 the following day, will get more playing time and might start Saturday against the Columbus Crew at Providence Park.
There's no way to sugarcoat a couple of things. Zemanski is not as brave or decisive as Chara, nor does he have Chara's infallible technique or unerring vision for a pass.
Zemanski needs to make the most of this opportunity. His unnecessary foul on Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin back in April gave the Sounders a foothold in a game they were losing by two goals at the time. It ended in a traumatic 4-4 draw.
Zemanski, an Ohio native, can start becoming an emerging player against Major League Soccer’s Ohio team.
The World Cup, beginning next month, has been unkind to the Crew. Four Columbus starters have left for their countries' campaigns in Brazil, including three of the team's four starting defenders and its starting striker.
The Crew has made fewer lineup changes than any other team this season, so losing those four starters is a big blow. Add to that that Columbus has failed to win since March, and the Timbers could be licking their lips.
Unlike his more illustrious brother Gonzalo, Federico Higuain won't be going to the World Cup, but the Columbus playmaker is one of the best players in MLS. Higuain is deadly from free kicks.
The Timbers will also need to stop the precocious Wil Trapp from controlling the game. Trapp, like Zemanski, worked under Porter at the University of Akron. He has completed more passes per game than any other player in MLS this season, doing for Columbus what Chara does for Portland.
Timbers fans will hope that, for a couple of games at least, Zemanski can boast the same.