The Portland Timbers take on the Seattle Sounders tonight in a preseason game that will be about as meaningful as these things get. As the two teams face off, the Timbers will look to continue the fine tuning they started against Sporting Kansas City and find out if their defense can stand up to an attack that looks somewhat more cohesive at this point in the year than the Houston Dyanmo's last week.
Let's take a look at the teams:
After only playing his first team for 30' of the Timbers' preseason match against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, Caleb Porter will have an opportunity to see a starting eleven in action for 60' tonight that would would not look out of place taking the field against the Philadelphia Union on March 8th.
The Timbers' line-up is already looking quite settled in the absence of still-recovering attacking players Diego Valeri and Steve Zakuani, but there do appear to be several spots still up for grabs. The left wing in particular is a big question mark for the Timbers with Kalif Alhassa, Schillo Tshuma, and even Jorge Villafana possibilities to give the Timbers some width in the attack. Of the three, Villafana is the only out and out winger in the group, with Alhassan and Tshuma more in Porter's oft-preferred mold of an interchanging attacking piece.
Other potential changes to the first team line-up include the ever present possibility of Futty Danso worming his way into the starting line-up, although that does not look particularly likely today, or a switch up top with Frederic Piquionne coming in for Maximiliano Urruti, also not very likely.
Although they made their largest splash last season with the mid-season acquisition of Clint Dempsey, the Sounders have been far from quiet this off-season. Seattle has seen major changes all across the field, while only preserving a few key pieces of the teams that have seen them labeled as contender for the last several years.
In goal the Sounders have given up their Austrian net-minder, Michael Gspurning, in favor of Toronto FC's former Swiss star, Stefan Frei. Frei has struggled with injuries over the last several years, losing his starting spot to first Milos Kocic then Joe Bendik, but when healthy he has been considered a potential top goalkeeper in MLS.
The Sounders' back line also went through some major changes as the team brought in a new veteran talent in Chad Marchall from the Columbus Crew and a skilled fullback in Jalil Anibaba from the Chicago Fire. The moves give the Sounders a physically imposing and highly experienced centerback duo in Marshall and Djimi Traore, while their fullbacks, Anibaba and DeAndre Yedlin, are both young and able to get forward into the attack.
Through the midfield the changes keep coming for Seattle with the trade of Mauro Rosales to Chivas USA and the release of Steve Zakuani into the re-entry draft. Rosales's contributions on the field will be particularly missed as the Argentine midfielder was Seattle's main source of assists over the last three years, chipping in 34 since joining MLS. The Sounders will be hoping that Marco Pappa, newly returned to MLS after two season with SC Heerenveen in Holland, will be able to fill that void along with Dempsey's creative talents. Pappa, however, is much more of a goal scorer than a creator on the wings, averaging less than three assists per season during his six years with the Chicago Fire.
Finally, the Sounders brought in a several new forward prospects after cutting ties with the increasingly annoying Eddie Johnson. Chad Barrett brings a workman-like presence up top, but the real surprise in the Seattle line-up is Kenny Cooper. With Dempsey currently on loan, Cooper has been the de facto partner up top for Obafemi Martins, with the two reportedly combining well and running off each other in Seattle's match on Wednesday against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Although both teams are still missing some very big contributors, we should get to see two first team sides slug it out for 60' tonight before the reserves are brought on. Also, it will be nice to look at a place that is nice and sunny, rather than the frozen tundra here in Portland.
Watch it on: Streaming on MLSsoccer.com
Kick off: 5:00 pm at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, AZ
Portland Timbers Preseason Record: 1-0-1
Seattle Sounders Preseason Record: 2-0-0