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Storylines: Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers

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Timbers look to end the Sounders’ 10-match unbeaten run on Sunday

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

The Timbers made it two in a row as they downed the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, and currently sit second in the West behind the Seattle Sounders. Goals by (now) all-time Timbers goal leader Diego Valeri and a wonderful goal inside the 18 by Darlington Nagbe helped seal the win. While they made it a bit nervy towards the end, it was fun to watch and see them pick up three points before heading out on a long road trip.

Now, it’s time for the Timbers to travel up I-5 to play in a football stadium against the first place team in the West (speaking of first place, the Timbers currently lead the Cascadia Cup standings). Can the Timbers get their first win in Seattle? Or will the Sounders grind out another victory and make it 11 matches unbeaten?

It’s Getting Hot In Here

The Seattle Sounders are getting hot at the right time, just like they did last season, which propelled them to MLS Cup. They’re 4-0-2 in their last six matches; 6-0-4 in their last ten. In comparison, the Timbers are 4-1-1 in their last six and 4-2-4 in their last ten matches.

The Sounders dropped points on Wednesday night in Vancouver as former Sounder Fredy Montero came back to haunt them and scored the equalizer. It's because of those dropped points that the Timbers are just a point out of first place. If we’re talking playoffs right now, the Sounders have a 99% chance of making it, while the Timbers sit at a nice 92% of making the playoffs as well according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

So Far Away

On Sunday, the Seattle Sounders will be missing one of the best left-backs in MLS. Joevin Jones seems to have split early for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers. The story goes that he took off after the Sounders match against Minnesota, flew to his home of Trinidad and Tobago, and only then did he text a coach telling him he would not be around for matches against Vancouver and Portland.

According to the team, Jones left for personal reasons and he will stay through the international window. The question is, when the break is over, will Jones return to the Sounders for the rest of the season before heading off to the 2. Bundesliga? Or will Jones force the Sounders’ hand into letting him go early?

In his place is 20-year-old Cameroonian rookie defender Nouhou Tolo. He has twelve appearances this season, five of them starts. With good performances, he could make it hard for Jones to get back into the lineup if he returns to the club. The Timbers would be wise to keep their eye on Nouhou as the Sounders love to attack down the left side.

Master Set Piece Theatre

Beware of Seattle’s set pieces; they end up scoring a lot this way. Seattle beat the Whitecaps on a PK, but they were still strong on set pieces. Both offensive and defensive set pieces are a definite strong point with the Sounders.

With the Sounders being a double threat on set pieces, the Timbers will have their work cut out for them. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to make sure Chad Marshall is marked, and marked well. Marshall is really good in the air, so look for them to pick him out on set pieces.

Rose City ‘Til I Die

The Timbers have a chance to get a big win in Seattle, something they have yet to do in MLS regular season play. However, it’s no doubt going to be tough, going into the CLink and taking on a very hot Seattle Sounders squad who are itching for a fight.

You remember what Clint Dempsey did to us in the last meeting, right? That cannot happen this time around. He’ll most likely be used as a sub, though he could possibly start seeing as he only came on later in the match against Vancouver.

The Timbers still have injuries they’re dealing with. No Ridgewell for sure, and Fanendo Adi, Marco Farfan, Jake Gleeson and Dairon Asprilla are all listed as questionable, and David Guzman is out due to yellow card accumulation. Last week, I said Adi would start the Colorado match; I was wrong. There’s the outside chance he might be ready to go on Sunday, but if he’s not, then I’d expect Ebobisse to start his second Cascadia Derby, especially after Mattocks’ less-than-inspiring outing against the Rapids.

Returning to the fold will be Larrys Mabiala who has served his red card suspension and will experience his first Sounders/Timbers clash.

Not only would getting three points in Seattle for the first time be nice, it would also catapult us to the top of the Western Conference and further solidify a spot in the postseason. Like mentioned above, the Timbers have a 92% chance of making the playoffs right now.

Getting three in the Fishing Village is a tough task, so if I’m being completely honest with myself I’d be happy with a point on the road in a hostile environment. While it wouldn’t put us in first, it would still do wonders for our playoff chances.