The Story So Far
Well that didn’t go as planned.
The Portland Timbers dropped precious home points to the reigning MLS Cup holders Atlanta United. One of the major problems was that the Timbers couldn’t finish their chances, had they done that the score line might have been a little different. Even with the loss the Timbers stay above the red line and in the last playoff spot, thanks to a tie breaker with FC Dallas, who are level on points with the Timbers.
If it wasn’t for a LA Galaxy own goal in the 82nd minute, the Seattle Sounders would have lost to a 10 man Galaxy side. The only Sounders goal came from Raul Ruidiaz just before the half in the 42nd minute. Even with the loss the Sounders are still in fifth place in the Western Conference, but the Timbers are only a win back from that spot.
Can the Timbers right the ship and beat the dreaded Sounders and leap into fifth place in the West and take the Cascadia Cup? Or will Seattle best their rivals in hostile territory and retain the coveted Cascadia Cup and their position in the table?
What To Watch For
Seattle Sounders (11-8-7, 40 pts)
The Sounders who should have lost to the Galaxy, got lucky with an own goal in the waning minutes of their match, they ended up drawing 2-2. I would look for them to have a giant chip on their shoulder coming into Friday night’s match. They’ll have an extra day’s rest over the Timbers as they played on Saturday.
I’d expect coach Brian Schmetzer to come out with a strong first choice starting 11. I’d expect we’ll see much the same line up they fielded on Saturday. Though Schmetzer is known to rotate his side, it’s still going to be a very strong starting lineup going into a match that has playoff implications and the Cascadia Cup on the line. To retain the cup, Seattle has to win the match outright. The Timbers need a win or a draw and the hardware is theirs.
One of the things the Timbers will really have a game plan for is Seattle’s counter attack. It’s swift and furious. They like to stretch the pitch and use the wings as a way to attack. They could be keeping the Timbers full-backs very busy on Friday night.
Raul Ruidiaz leads the Sounders with 9 goals and is their main threat. Right now he’s averaging 0.69 goals per 90, and he leads the team in that category. Look for him to play off the shoulder of the center-backs and try at times to get in behind. He’s sneaky and if the Timbers aren’t paying attention, he can be quick to get in on goal. While this team has several threats, I think if you shut down Ruidiaz you force the Sounders to rely on other goal scores, the next closest to Ruidiaz on the goal sheet is Jordan Morris who has picked up seven goals and four helpers so far this season.
While Ruidiaz might be the guy to keep an eye on, you might want to also not let Nico Lodeiro roam free. He pulls the strings from that number 10 spot for the Sounders, he’s one of the most fouled players in MLS, and I can see why. You don’t want to let this guy run roughshod on the pitch, because in one way or another he’ll make you pay for it. Lodeiro has five goals and six assists so far this MLS season.
Another player to look out for is Nouhou Tolo the left-back. He’s got the energy of the energizer bunny and has no problems inserting himself in the attack down the wing. Look for him to cross into the box for Ruidiaz or he might take it for himself. Though he only had two crosses against the Galaxy on Saturday.
The Sounders are in a bit of a slide having gone winless in their last four matches and have conceded 11 goals in four matches, so the Timbers are catching them at possibly the right moment. Though I’m sure the Sounders will have something to say about that.
Portland Timbers (11-10-4, 37 pts)
Let’s face the Timbers are coming off a pretty gut wrenching loss to Atlanta United..again. I think the team showed signs of fatigue, I mean the schedule has been less than kind as far as fixture congestion goes. They’re going to have to brush it off and bring their “A” game on Friday night at Providence Park. They need to put Atlanta in the rearview and focus on the Sounders, there are playoff implications with this match.
I’d expect to see some rotation, but not much from Gio Savarese. We’ll possibly see Paredes back in his spot in the defensive midfield alongside Diego Chara. One player we won’t see is center-back Larrys Mabiala, he’s officially out with a left thigh injury. So I would suspect that we’ll see the same pairing of Cascante and Tuiloma against the Sounders. Zarek Valentin didn’t start against Atlanta, but I could see him possibly get the start depending how much Savarese decides to rotate the squad.
One of the things I’ve like about this season is the rotation and depth the Timbers has. Even with Mabiala out, the team still has three center-backs with Claude Dielna on the bench. Though we only have one extra full-back (Zarek Valentin), with Marco Farfan still out with a knee injury and no timetable for his return.
I think the front four will remain the same, Brian Fernandez, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Jeremy Ebobisse will all likely start. Though I could see possibly Marvin Loria for Ebobisse. Whatever the case maybe, this match is for the Cascadia Cup and moving up the table. Like I mentioned should the Timbers win or draw this match, the Cascadia Cup will be moving back to its rightful home in Portland. The only way the Sounders win the Cup is if they beat the Timbers on home soil.
This season the Timbers have scored the most goals (11) in minutes 31-45. The only team better than this would be LAFC who have scored 18 goals in that time frame.
Even with a bit of a cool down striker Brian Fernandez has a goals per 90 of 0.87, which should come as no surprise leads the team. Jeremy Ebobisse is second on the team in goals and goals per 90 (0.45).
The Timbers have been scored against 9 times in minutes 31-45 not to mention they’ve allowed seven goals in minutes 1-15.
There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 8 of Seattle’s last 9 games (Major League Soccer).
Seattle have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 4 matches (Major League Soccer).
The Timbers have won three of their last five meetings against the Seattle Sounders.