The first big challenge awaits Caleb Porter this weekend. In his first ever road game as the Portland Timbers' head coach, he'll be tasked with defeating the Seattle Sounders. Enemy numero uno. It's certainly no small feat, especially considering the Timbers have yet to beat them at CenturyLink Field. Still, with a new coaching style and a host of new, talented players, we could see the dawning of a new era.
Seattle, for their part, aren't necessarily the same team either. Since last season they've lost Fredy Montero to Club Millionarios of Colombia taking with him one of their creative attacking elements. Additionally, new designated player Obamefi Martins isn't expected to join the Sounders from his La Liga side until later this month, relieving the Timbers of being the first MLS team to face him.
Finally, as revealed by Dave Clark below, Mauro Rosales' likelihood of being out for today's game can be considered nothing but a boon for the Timbers on Saturday. According to Seattle's training today Rosales is probable but still unlikely to play.
To help us, and you, figure out this year's Sounders squad, Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart answered a few of my questions:
Coming off a home loss to Montreal (we know how it feels) followed by a resurgent CCL game against UANL Tigres, tell us what's going on up north in Seattle? How are they doing? What was the reason for the home loss, and how were they able to bounce back from going down 1-nil at home against Tigres?
Seattle's biggest problem against Montreal was not defending the counter, although that was an issue. The problem was chance conversion. The Sounders created a ton of them and didn't convert. But in that historic win to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League they were the Sounders of the past generating chances and actually converting. They can't count on two 25+ yard blasts by defenders, but Zakuani and Johnson powered plenty of creation. The defense is clearly solid, to only give up a goal a game to a Liga MX side is an indicator that Gspurning & Co will be just fine this year.
How has the loss of Fredy Montero affected the team as a whole? Is he expected to be missed? Is Obafemi Martins expected to fill Montero's role or does he play a different sort of attacking game?
Without Fredy the creative element will almost always be from the flanks. There is going to be an empty space where he used to be quite often, so Seattle will have to switch the ball quickly to open up more space this year. Martins is more a speed player than creator. So when he gets here he may be in that space, but it will be in order to burst through the defense rather than work a nifty pass or incredible shot. On a whole the offense is likely better right now, even before Martins joins the squad, just because Zakuani and Martinez will be here the full season.
I noticed Osvaldo Alonso didn't feature in the game against Montreal, but he was playing against Tigres. Why was this? Is he expected to start against the Timbers on Saturday? As one of Seattle's most important players, is there anything new we should expect from him this year?
Alonso's temper got the better of him after the loss to LA in the Playoffs last year and earned him a post-match yellow for dissent. He will be starting Saturday. He is getting forward more often this season and even serving corners at times. He is still the stalwart on defense limiting penetration through the middle in ways that few players in the world can.
Is Eddie Johnson Seattle's most hipsteriest player ever?
Seattle fashion probably has three elements. There's the grunge inspired outdoor chic that is the usual attire of Brad Evans. There is the geek in all of us, which includes Mauro Rosales wearing adidas/Star Wars athletic gear. Then there is the hipster/Urkle look. Eddie grabbed that as his just this week. It is a frightening development.
Predicted starting line up?
Michael Gspurning; Marc Burch, Djimi Traore, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, DeAndre Yedlin; Osvaldo Alonso; Steve Zakuani, Andy Rose, Mario Martinez; David Estrada, Eddie Johnson
That's if Estrada comes back from injury. Evans and Rosales are almost certainly out. Johansson may be back. I'll have an update after practice.
Update from Dave
Evans is out while Rosales is probable, according to today's Seattle Training.