Back on home turf at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday, the Portland Timbers host Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders. Find out everything you need to know about the opposition.
What can the Timbers expect?
The passion that comes with this rivalry is unavoidable when it comes to previewing any match-up as it most definitely plays a factor in ensuring that both teams are fully charged up. Yet, Seattle brings more than that to these games as they are an excellent attacking team, who can mix it up physically and disrupt the Timbers’ slick passing style.
Where are they most vulnerable?
As good as they are going forward, Seattle has had a number of changes on their backline which could make them vulnerable.
With their defense so shaky at times, Seattle relies quite a lot on its midfield to provide the necessary cover but that can then limit their attacking input. It is a balance that the team has struggled to find this season and often their last line of defense – goalkeeper Michael Gspurning – bails them out when the pressure is really heaped upon them.
Who are their main threats?
The Designated Player trio of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Mauro Rosales are amongst the very best in the league. Each of them has experience of playing in Europe and internationally, which, coupled with their undoubted quality, makes them on-field leaders for a team that boasts some big characters, like Osvaldo Alonso and Shalrie Joseph.
By meshing speed with technique, Seattle can rely on the playmaking abilities of Steve Zakuani, Lamar Neagle, Dempsey and Rosales to set up opportunities for the players up top. Then there is the long-range shooting from Alonso, Adam Moffat and Andy Rose, which can be a weapon that they can roll out to decide tight games.
Head coach: Sigi Schmid
Now in charge of his third different team in MLS, Schmid has won MLS Cup twice – in 2002 with LA Galaxy and in 2008 with Columbus Crew. A fiery character with a great soccer brain, Schmid can be an imposing boss but his players always have full respect for him and he has an ability to get the best out of them. He has also led Seattle to three US Open Cup victories.
Star Player: Osvaldo Alonso
Amongst the best midfielders in the league, this 28-year-old is a real leader for Seattle and makes them tick. The Cuban-born player is superb at breaking up opposition attacks and winning back possession – often without players even knowing he is lurking – but his short passing game is also one of his finest traits and allows the team to link play.
One To Watch: Lamar Neagle
Able to play out wide or up front, Neagle is a really exciting player who is enjoying a stand-out season with eight goals scored already. The Washington native has done his fair share of travelling around in recent years, but he has finally found his place in the Seattle set-up and emerged as a game-changer due to his explosive pace, excellent first touch and eye for goal.
What happened when the teams last met?
Up at CenturyLink Field in late August, the Timbers fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Seattle with Eddie Johnson’s goal proving to be the difference. It was a feisty game – hardly surprising considering the rivalry between the two clubs – and Caleb Porter’s team came close on several occasions to scoring.
What did the Timbers learn from that game?
Concentration is so important in big games and switching off for any moment can prove costly, especially when facing players like Johnson and Mauro Rosales, who whipped in the free-kick that the former scored from. It was a set-piece that caught the Timbers.
There were a lot of factors why the Timbers never truly dominated in this game, but playing in front of the second-largest standalone crowd in MLS history wasn’t one of them. Under Porter, the Timbers can handle the pressure; it’s just about matching that coolness with consistency and injecting energy at the right moments.
What did the coaches have to say at the time?
Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter
“For us to come into this game and play as well as we did and perform as well as we did is commendable. I thought the performance was good; the mentality was good. It was a very even game.”
Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid
“It was a hard-fought game. Obviously we are pleased with being able to get a clean sheet. We are pleased the one goal was enough to give us the three points, because that was the most important thing.”
How has Seattle fared since then?
The victory over the Timbers sparked a five-game winning streak for Seattle as they overcame Columbus Crew, Chivas USA, Chicago Fire, and Real Salt Lake. Then they tied twice before losing heavily to Colorado Rapids and then again in midweek action against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Did You Know?
The Timbers have attracted a combined total of 59,503 supporters to JELD-WEN Field for their three regular season games in MLS with Seattle Sounders.