KeyBank Scouting Report (MLS Cup Playoff Edition): Seattle Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers - Nov. 2, 2013
With the 2013 regular season now completed, all the focus in MLS is on the playoffs, where the Portland Timbers will face Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference semi-finals Saturday night (7:00pm PT, NBC Sports Network, 750 The Game / La Pantera 940). Caleb Porter’s team were afforded an extra few days rest as Seattle took on Colorado Rapids in Wednesday’s knockout round tie at CenturyLink Field, where they won 2-0. Now, the Timbers must overcome their Cascadia rivals in order to keep their MLS Cup hopes alive. So, here is a complete breakdown of the opposition and the threat that they pose.
Regular Season Record
Games Played 34
Goals For 42
Goals Against 42
Points Per Game 1.53
Path to the Playoffs
Seattle set their standards quite high, so this has not been quite the season they envisiones so far. In fact, they just did enough to make it over the line into the playoffs after failing to win in their last seven league games. The team’s home form, though, was quite impressive and a number of players made big contributions. Overall, they are in the postseason due to the fighting spirit that has marked the franchise since they first joined MLS.
May 11 – Seattle Sounders 4-0 San Jose Earthquakes
This was Seattle at their very best. In front of 38,880 supporters, they turned on the style with Lamar Neagle scoring twice alongside goals from Mauro Rosales and Obafemi Martins. In what turned out to be a physical test for them, Seattle triumphed by sticking to their slick-passing principles and it proved to be their biggest win of the regular season.
August 3 – Seattle Sounders 3-0 FC Dallas
There are always going to be games when a team doesn’t dominate as much as they could have but still do enough to collect the three points – and this was one of those for Seattle. The visitors enjoyed more possession and completed more passes, but they did not get the goals and that is why the strikes from Martins, Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans were so crucial.
Top Three Performers
Mauro Rosales (32 games – 4 goals – 8 assists)
Some players have a gift of seeing things before others do and have the ability to execute passes and shots on goals, and Rosales is a master of this. The Argentine playmaker has emerged as a real leader for Seattle and his delivery from set-pieces has made a difference over the course of the season.
Osvaldo Alonso (25 games – 1 assist)
One of the best defensive midfielders in the league, Alonso is someone who players want on their team, because opponents hate to come up against him. Superb at nicking the ball back, he applies pressure at the right times, in the right areas and knows exactly what to do with the ball once he has it as his link play is consistently outstanding.
Lamar Neagle (29 games – 8 goals – 3 assists)
A real favorite amongst the Seattle supporters and it is easy to see why as Neagle is all energy and won’t be accused of lacking commitment. He has come of age this season and matched his raw athleticism with a knack of delivering in terms of goals and assists. There are still areas for him to improve on, but he has become a deserved starter.
How did they fare in their knockout game?
It was a winner-takes-all match at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday evening as Seattle hosted Colorado and they were certainly pumped up for it with the Sounders emerging the 2-0 victors. Perhaps for the first time this season, they found the right role for Clint Dempsey – at the top of a diamond midfield – and the United States international caused havoc and helped set up Eddie Johnson’s winning goal after Brad Evans had put them in front.
While Colorado struggled to get their passing rhythm going, credit should go to Seattle for imposing themselves on the game and dictating the tempo. In fact, they bossed most areas with 14 shots on goal, 50 per cent possession, four corner kicks won and 74 per cent accuracy in their passing. Even when goalkeeper Michael Gspurning was sent off late on, they held their nerve and actually pushed on to get another goal.
What can the Timbers expect?
Judging by their three previous meetings this season, where the record stands at 1-1-1, this will be a real battle between two fierce rivals. This year has seen Seattle try to switch to a more aggressive approach, where they step up from the first whistle and look to force their opponents into making mistakes. Especially with someone like Alonso leading by example in midfield, they will attempt to disrupt the Timbers’ play and force them onto the back foot.
By playing with a diamond midfield, Seattle leaves themselves quite narrow and can be exposed out wide, especially on the left side. However, the trick to really getting in behind them is by making the ball do the work and keeping hold of it. But the Timbers should be wary of Seattle’s quick counter attacking and chipped passes over the top looking for Johnson, while Dempsey is bound to act as their chief playmaker.
What makes them a contender?
With a team that boasts such an array of attacking options, they are always going to be in the mix. Even when they might not be playing well collectively, there are several individuals on their roster capable of producing a moment of magic. The other factor that should work in their favor is the team’s experience of competing in the playoffs and the fact that head coach Sigi Schmid has won two MLS Cups.