Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers | 2017 MLS Match Preview
Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
2017 MLS Regular Season
CenturyLink Field - Seattle, Washington
Saturday, May 27- 2:30 pm ET
WATCH: FOX, FOX Deportes in US, TSN2 in Canada
One of the hottest-burning rivalries in North American soccer sparks back into life before a national-network-television audience on Saturday, as the Seattle Sounders host their old enemies to the south, the Portland Timbers, for their first meeting of 2017.
Experienced MLS watchers need little introduction to this chapter of the Cascadia Cup, which dates back decades and inflames Pacific Northwest passions like little else can.
While their showdowns began in the old NASL in 1975, modern times have brought a new edge and a global audience; on this occasion, the Sounders and Timbers face off as the two most recent MLS Cup champions. It’s also the first of two clashes in the next few weeks, with a US Open Cup match at Starfire Sports Complex looming on June 13.
No extra motivation is needed for these encounters, but Saturday is a matchup of slumping sides. Both teams have won just once in their last five games, skids marked by leaky defenses – Seattle and Portland have each allowed 11 goals in that stretch.
Seattle have generally gotten a lot right between the penalty boxes this season, dominating possession and passing stats in most matches. Their finishing has routinely let them down, however, while an injury-plagued backline has conceded three or more goals on three occasions in the past month.
Rave Green fans will hope that their yacht was righted with the 1-0 home win over Real Salt Lake last weekend. Even at that, the Sounders had to sweat against struggling RSL, as Clint Dempsey had a penalty kick saved by Nick Rimando and Harry Shipp’s game-winning goal was aided by a major deflection.
Coach Brian Schmetzer suggested that the result could provide timely psychological relief nonetheless.
“What we try and message the team is that they’re a good team. They need to believe they’re a good team,” he said postgame. “The 1-0 victory might not seem like a massive step, but I think deep down inside, they’re going to say ‘We’ve got this, now let’s build on this.’”
On Saturday they’ll be buoyed by an enormous crowd at CenturyLink Field – and, perhaps, by the warm feelings generated by the Tuesday ceremony in which they received their glitzy MLS Cup championship rings.
- Suspensions: None
- International Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – D/M Henry Wingo (right ankle sprain), F Will Bruin (left elbow dislocation); QUESTIONABLE – M Aaron Kovar (groin surgery), D Roman Torres (left hamstring strain), M Osvaldo Alonso (right quad tightness)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Stefan Frei – Brad Evans, Chad Marshall, Tony Alfaro, Joevin Jones – Cristian Roldan, Osvaldo Alonso – Harry Shipp, Nicolas Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey – Jordan Morris
Notes: Dating back to July 13 of last year, Seattle have only lost one of their last 13 home regular-season games (8W-4D), keeping six clean sheets along that run, according to OPTA stats ... The Sounders are conceding the fewest fouls in the league per game (8.6); Minnesota (9.4) are the only other team in MLS that concedes less than 10 fouls per game.
Bristling with attacking weapons, Portland started the season like a house on fire, going 4-1-1 in the opening weeks and scoring goals by the bushel. The front four of Fanendo Adi, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and Sebastian Blanco looked nigh unstoppable, fueling trophy talk in the Rose City.
Injuries to Valeri and Nagbe – and just as notably, to key defender Liam Ridgewell – have taken their toll since then. The Timbers are winless since April 22 and are reportedly lining up a major center-back signing for the summer transfer window.
The Portland faithful are concerned by what they’ve seen lately, enough that coach Caleb Porter addressed the issue specifically after last week’s 4-1 drubbing at Montreal – a result heavily influenced by an early red card to midfield linchpin Diego Chara, who will be suspended for the Seattle trip.
"I know supporters aren’t happy," said Porter. "We’re not happy either. But I can tell you this: We are going to get back to work and we are going to keep fighting.
"We are not happy giving up points, but we are a lot better team than the scoreline indicates and we are a lot closer to being the team that we need to be than it feels right now. Best way to make it right is for us to go and get a result in the next game vs. our biggest rival."
To add to the headwinds, the Timbers carry an ugly history on Puget Sound. They have never won in Seattle in MLS regular-season play (0-5-2) – though they did win there, memorably, in the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs.
- Suspensions: M Diego Chara (red card)
- International Duty: F Jeremy Ebobisse (US U-20s)
- Injury Report: OUT — D Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles), D Chance Myers (hamstring), GK Jeff Attinella (hamstring)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Jake Gleeson — Vytas, Liam Ridgewell, Roy Miller, Alvas Powell — Amobi Okugo, David Guzman — Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe — Fanendo Adi
Notes: Via OPTA, Portland have conceded three or more goals seven times in their last 12 MLS away games ... PTFC won two of their first three MLS away games this year (1L) and conceded four goals across the three matches. In their ensuing three away games, they are winless (2L-1D) and have conceded nine goals.
- Overall: Seattle 8 wins (31 goals) … Portland 5 wins (27 goals) … Ties 4
- At Seattle: Seattle 6 wins (14 goals) … Portland 0 wins (4 goals) … Ties 2
Referee: Mark Geiger
Assistant Referees: Jeremy Hanson, Mike Rottersman
4th Official: Allen Chapman