Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders | 2017 MLS Match Preview
Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders
2017 MLS Regular Season - Week 17
Providence Park - Portland, Ore.
Sunday, June 25 – 10 pm ET
WATCH: ESPN2; MLS LIVE in Canada
The latest chapter in this fierce Cascadia rivalry comes at a delicate point in the season for two teams that have alternated MLS Cup titles in the last two years and come into the 2017 season with title aspirations. The Northwest clubs are coming off bitter results in midweek: The Timbers lost 3-2 in Minnesota despite fighting back twice to level the score, while the Sounders dropped points at home after giving up a stoppage-time equalizer to Orlando.
Both have alternated inspired performances with other labored outings and they find themselves with seven losses each at the midway point of the season (17 matches) and an identical 3-5-2 record in their last 10. The Timbers (7-7-3, 24pts) only enjoy a slight four-point edge in the Western Conference standings after coming out of the gates stronger than the defending champion Sounders (5-7-5, 20pts).
While Portland will surely bemoan an error-prone backline which has struggled with injuries and inconsistency (the Timbers have the 5th leakiest defense in MLS), head coach Brian Schmetzer and the Sounders can't seem to find a way to get their attacking foursome to strike fear into the opposition with any regularity (the Sounders are in the bottom half of the league's goal-scoring charts).
"You're watching Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro and they often occupy the same space. They're very predictable. They were unpredictable last year," MLS analyst Taylor Twellman said about the Sounders' attack on ESPNFC. "But I think all of it falls on the shoulders of Jordan Morris. He's the only one with real pace. He's the only one who can stretch a backline.
"And yet you've seen the sloppy touches and in fairness to Jordan, he's had an ankle injury and some leg injuries," continued Twellman. "If that's the real case and he's playing on half a leg and he's not at 100 percent, then sit him out for three weeks because the Jordan Morris that's playing now isn't giving Seattle enough in the final third. And quite honestly if it's an injury-related situation, sit him."
The one bright spot for Seattle? They've defeated the Timbers in the two meetings so far this year, including a US Open Cup ouster earlier this month.
The rolling Timbers side from earlier this season has more than lost some steam in recent weeks, unable to find the rhythm that had many projecting this 2017 edition to be one of the most explosive teams in MLS history.
Mistakes have cost them dearly as a rotating cast along the back line has taken its lumps. And the attack has struggled to make up for it with the team's difference makers failing to come up with big plays aside from the occasional star turn from Diego Valeri.
- Suspended: MF Sebastian Blanco (red card), DF Roy Miller (yellow card accumulation)
- Suspended next yellow card: DF Vytas Andriuškevičius
- International duty: None
- Injury Report: DF Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles tear, out for season), MF Jack Barmby (ankle injury), DF Chance Myers (hamstring injury), DF Liam Ridgewell (quad strain)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1, left to right): Jake Gleeson — Vytas Andriuškevičius, Amobi Okugo, Lawrence Olum, Alvas Powell — David Guzman, Diego Chara — Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Dairon Asprilla — Fanendo Adi
Notes: The Timbers have a center back crisis (Roy Miller is suspended and Liam Ridgewell is injured) and how manager Caleb Porter addresses the issue could have a big impact on the match. Does he start Amobi Okugo, who on Wednesday played his first full match since March? Or does he give a debut to former Timbers2 reserve player Rennico Clarke? Perhaps Vytas is a candidate to slide over from left back to left center back?
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Would it be overly aggressive of the Sounders to line up with the attack-minded foursome of Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro and their top scorer Will Bruin (5 goals) in the starting XI? The first three are regulars and Bruin is proving to be the most dangerous of late. The powerful 6-foot-2, 194-pound MLS veteran would also severely test a depleted Timbers center back corps.
- Suspended: None
- Suspended next yellow card: None
- International duty: None
- Injury Report: MF Brad Evans (left calf strain), FW Seyi Adekoya (left ankle sprain)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1, left to right): Stefan Frei – Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Brad Evans – Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan – Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro – Will Bruin
Notes: Joevin Jones and Brad Evans were rested in midweek, but every other projected starter went 90 or close to it vs. Orlando City ... Harry Shipp is a potential option at wide midfield should Schmetzer believe he needs fresh legs on the road.
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This is the 19th all-time regular-season MLS meeting between the two rivals. The Sounders already beat the Timbers 1-0 in the first meeting of the season on May 27 at CenturyLink Field. After Sunday, there will be one final regular season meeting on Sunday, August 27 (9:30 pm ET on FS1, FOX Deportes).
All-Time (18 regular season matches): Seattle 9W-5L-4D (32 GF / 27 GA); Portland 5W-9L-4D (27 GF / 32 GA)
At Providence Park (9 regular season matches): Seattle 2W-5L-2D (17 GF / 23 GA); Portland 5W-2L-2D (23 GF / 17 GA)
Note: The two clubs also met once previously in the MLS Cup Playoffs with the Timbers advancing to the 2013 Western Conference Championship 5-3 on aggregate. In the MLS era, they have also been drawn three times in the US Open Cup knockout tournament. The Sounders advanced on two of those three USOC occasions, including the latest win on June 13 in the 2017 Fourth Round (Rd. of 32).
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Assistant Referees: Jeffrey Greeson (bench side), Kyle Atkins (far)
Fourth Official: Drew Fischer