After last weekend’s calamitous 4-1 loss to the Montreal Impact, the Portland Timbers are headed up north to right the ship in the most dramatic fashion possible: by taking on their bitter rivals, the Seattle Sounders.
The Sounders, for their part, are looking to fight their way into a playoff spot after a slow start to the season following on the back of winning their first MLS Cup last year, a situation that fans of the Timbers are all too familiar with. Although five points and four positions on the table separate the two sides, a win for either could prove to be the difference as they jockey for position in the Western Conference.
Both sides come into this match after suffering through a number of injury issues in the early season, but of the two the Timbers seem closest to full strength in their starting XI. Seattle have several players who remain out or questionable, while the Timbers have gotten most of their key players back healthy.
Where the Timbers are missing out, however, is in the center of the pitch. Thanks to an ill-advised swing of the arm into the face of Ignacio Piatti last weekend, the Timbers are without Diego Chara to partner with David Guzman in the center of the pitch. The side have options to compensate for the loss, but it seems likely that Lawrence Olum will step in at holding mid, providing a stout defensive presence in the center of the pitch and freeing up Guzman to play in more of a destroyer/creator role further up the pitch than we are used to.
Moreover, it could free up Guzman for a more specific role: marking Nicolas Lodeiro out of the match. The Sounders’ play maker has yet to reach the heights that it looked like he was destined for after taking home the Newcomer of the Year award in 2016, but he is still an important part of the Seattle attack that will keep coming at teams and combining with the Sounders’ talented attacking group until the final whistle. Better to keep the ball away from him at all times rather than to scramble to contain him one he has it.
Of course, there are questions to be asked about the rest of the Sounders attack. Jordan Morris has been struggling to return to full match fitness after missing out on the start of the season due to injury. Likewise, offseason addition Will Bruin may not be available tomorrow as he recovers from a dislocated elbow, an injury that should not keep him out of the 18 but will hamper him none the less. Finally, Clint Dempsey has had an impact for the Sounders since making his return from an absence due to a heart-condition, but his ability to combine with Lodeiro has regularly been called into question.
Along the back line, the Timbers remain suspect and a steady defensive defensive performance out of the midfield will be key in this match, even if Liam Ridgewell and company can step their game up. Communication between Ridgewell and his likely center back partner Roy Miller is all important as the Sounders will certainly be looking to target Miller’s discomfort while playing at the right side of the pairing.
Watch it on: FOX
When: Saturday, May 27th at 12:00 p.m. PT
Where: CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA
Portland Timbers: 5-4-3, 5th place in the Western Conference, 4-1 loss at Montreal Impact
Seattle Sounders: 3-5-4, 8th place in the Western Conference, 1-0 vs. Real Salt Lake