Dave Clark of our sister site in Seattle, Sounder at Heart, chimes in to give us a preview of what the Seattle Sounders will bring to Sunday night’s Cascadia derby between the Sounders and the Portland Timbers.
Stumptown Footy: With Clint Dempsey fully recovered from a tweaked hamstring and Obafemi Martins in form early on, is the Sounders attack at its ridiculous 2014 potency yet?
Dave Clark: Last year we called the Seattle attack the Hydra. It was powerful, came from may directions and when one goalscorer dropped another popped up. Five players had six or more goals in MLS play - Martins, Dempsey, Neagle, Barrett, and Pappa. Plus Cooper, Pineda, Rose and even Evans have shown they can do that when you include all competitions.
This year the attack is not as exciting. It's Clint and Oba with a bunch of guys trying to find their way. Lamar Neagle just started bursting out in the last two games. Pappa should find his way, but it takes a fifth head to really go full hydra. Barrett does not look to be that man in 2015. Cooper is gone. That means a young player will need to do it. It will be up to the youth movement of HGPs Darwin Jones, Victor Mansaray, Aaron Kovar, or GA player Cristian Roldan. Vic and Roldan are off with US Youth National Teams right now. Kovar and Jones are almost certainly going to be with S2. That means Portland will only have to defend 2.5 scorers in Sunday's game. It will be much different by the end of the year.
SF: With Chad Marshall suspended and Zach Scott his likely replacement, how much of a concern is the backline against the Timbers on Sunday?
DC: It shouldn't be a concern. Zach Scott was a brilliant pairing with Marshall last year and Brad Evans has been strong since the disaster that was the San Jose loss. Add in the fact that Portland's attack plays right at Seattle's strengths (defending the air) and Seattle's defense should fare well.
The most likely weakness to show up will be that Scott can foul in dangerous spaces. Next most likely would be an awful pass in the defensive third that would count as an assist if a Portland player did it.
SF: The only major personnel change from 2014 is Tyrone Mears taking the place of DeAndre Yedlin at right back. How would you assess Mears's performance to date?
DC: Mears plays the position quite like Yedlin did. His passing and defense are a bit better. His dribbling and speed are worse. Tyrone is also more consistent. Where Yedlin could go from goat to GOAT in a week. Mears is more a fill-in player who just does his job. He is capable of flaring forward and inserting a game-changing pass, but will only try it a couple times a game as opposed to a couple dozen times a game.