Will Portland give Reds first road win?

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:05 PM ET

TORONTO - A disappointing 2-1 win over Nicaragua's Real Esteli at BMO Field Wednesday night leaves head coach Aron Winter in a selection predicament heading into Saturday's MLS match in Portland.

The unimpressive midweek result looms large over Tuesday's return-leg and will test Winter's ability to name a competitive side in Portland while acknowledging the importance of next week's second-leg Champions League match in Nicaragua -- a contest the Dutchman is "convinced" TFC will secure the necessary result in.

After starting a reserve side against the Nicaraguan champions, it appears Julian de Guzman is close to full fitness after entering in the second-half of Wednesday's Cup match.

Winter added that Terry Dunfield made the western trip and could see his first action in a TFC kit during the current road trip. Earning minutes in Portland would see the Canadian international take the field for the first time since falling in the Voyageurs Cup final.

"When everybody is fit, we have a very good midfield," Winter said. "But you have to be careful when there are injuries."

Expect Winter to rest Dunfield in Portland, saving him for the trip to Nicaragua early next week.

De Guzman and Dunfield are poised to provide much needed relief for Torsten Frings seeing as the German has played close to every minute since becoming eligible earlier this month. There are questions as to whether Frings and fellow designated player Danny Koevermans will start and play 90 minutes Saturday in Portland for the fourth time in 10 days.

Keeping in mind the Reds have just two days to recover before their Champions League match in Nicaragua, a full performance from the designated pairing against the Timbers might leave Winter no choice but to rest the pair in preparation for next Saturday's trip to Washington, D.C.

Rumoured to have missed the Esteli match due to disciplinary reasons, Maicon Santos might play in the return leg should Winter want to rest Koevermans. The Brazilian is on the current road trip.

In responding to questions surrounding the Brazilian's status with club, Winter addressed removing Toronto's former captain in the first half last week in Kansas City.

"Of course I wasn't happy with him," he said.

A full week off should see the return of Mikael Yourassowsky in the Rose City. Winter rested the Belgian Wednesday night for tactical reasons and it's to be seen where Winter will use him this weekend.

With academy product Ashtone Morgan putting it two solid performances in the left side of defence, Winter could leave Yourassowsky alongside Frings and a healthy de Guzman, pushing Ryan Johnson up top against Portland.

As Andy Iro has locked up top spot in the centre of defence, there are questions as to who will sit beside the Englishman if new addition Dasan Robinson fails to join the Reds out west. The recent influx of defensive support has produced more uncertainty in an already susceptible back-line.

And while TFC continues to chase its first MLS road win this season, the Portland Timbers have gone five-straight without securing three points at JELD-WEN Field.

Considering TFC is the only club that has conceded more times than the Timbers in 2011, all things point to a wide-open affair as both clubs look to break winless streaks while the Reds hope to save something for Real Esteli at the start of next week.

Game time is 11 p.m. The match will be shown on GOL TV.

Kurtis.Larson@sunmedia.ca


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