It's been an interesting few weeks since the last time the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders met up here at Jeld-Wen Field. After successfully thwarting Portland's attempt at winning the Cascadia Cup, the Sounders seemed emboldened in their chance to keep the trophy at home. All they had to do what beat the Vancouver Whitecaps in British Columbia to even up the odds a bit.
Luckily for us, the Sounders floundered and now the Timbers are, once again, looking like the favorites to take home the Cascadia Cup trophy. All they need to do is get one, measly point.
To help us figure out what happened in Vancouver and what's been going on with this Seattle team since we last saw each other, however, I spoke with Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart.
With a disappointing draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend, it seems like the Sounders have hamstrung themselves in this regional tournament. What's the general feeling among the Seattle fans with regards to their current predicament?
Portland's poor road record gives the fanbase confidence. It's not a way you want to be confident in winning a rivalry cup, but in this case it's a definite reason that the Sounders can take this. There is also a feeling that Seattle wasted opportunities to gain points. They were up a goal down in Portland and failed to score against the Whitecaps. Both of those matches were games that Seattle should expect to win. They failed. Instead a club that could still finish second in the West has to hope that one of the worst teams in the league fails. It is a poor situation.
This year they are on par with those sides. The Galaxy are poor if they don't have both of AJ DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez on the field. Real Salt Lake is bad if they don't have Jamison Olave. The Sounders struggle without Mauro Rosales. Any of these teams at full health is capable of challenging the Earthquakes at the top of the West, except that they haven't. In fact, Seattle has the second fewest losses in MLS and essentially half their losses are to San Jose. Every year the Sounders have had a bugaboo team. This year it is not RSL or LA (that would be 2011 and 2010 respectively) but the 'Quakes. With the game in hand seeds two through four are basically tied.
It's been a couple months since Christian Tiffert signed on with Seattle. How has he fared since his debut with Seattle? What kind of impact is he making on the team at large?
At first his quality defense and passing were clearly demonstrated. He was a shuttler type on offense with Alonso-esque defense. Recently he's been dealing with an ankle issue and keeping up with the energy level of the league. He is not using the injury as an excuse. After practice Wednesday he said to Sounder at Heart, "The problem with my ankle for the past four weeks isn't easy because you are not at 100%, but in soccer there are I don't know 10-15 days in your career when you are 100%. Pain belongs to the game." But the fact of the matter is that his play in late September is not to his standard, nor to fans' expectations. We have yet to see the massive assist numbers that he put up in 10/11 in the Bundesliga. A rapid transition/adaptation to MLS that shows in October could fuel a late run and Playoff performances by the whole team.
With the play-offs just a few short weeks away, where does Seattle's priorities lie these days?
All the points. The only match that doesn't matter is the CCL match at the CLink against Marathon. The rest are about getting points for a push to second in the West and a chance at hosting the MLS Cup Final with players wearing the Rave Green. There is also the bonus against Portland because of the Cascadia Cup. If Seattle can capture the Cascadia Cup and get out of the first round of the Playoffs it will be a decent year that fell short of a major trophy. That's the very minimum in judging this season.
Predicted starting line up?
4-4-2 (ish) Michael Gspurning - Leo Gonzalez, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Adam Johansson - Osvaldo Alonso - Brad Evans, Christian Tiffert, Mauro Rosales - Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson
Once again, thanks to Dave Clark for speaking with us about Seattle's recent results. You can read more about the Sounders on his site: Sounder at Heart.
And now for some pre-game discussion topics:
- How confident are you that the Timbers can bring home the trophy on Sunday?
- Are you going to the game in Seattle? Are you traveling with the TA or going solo?
- Bright Dike or Danny Mwanga? Which one and why?
- Score line predictions?