I recently linked up with Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart to ask him three questions about what to expect from tonight’s match. To see my answers to his questions, click here.
Kyle Garcia: Seattle looked dominant to start the season despite missing several key players, but they seem to have come back to Earth a little bit these past few games (2-3-3 in their last eight). What happened to cause that dip in performance?
Dave Clark: Not to put it too simply, but there was a wave of injuries and call-ups and loans like the league has never seen. Not only were there extreme hardship signings, but those signings started one game and were subs in a couple others. With the absences list in the double digits that the club only lost three matches is impressive. There are still some injuries, but that’s down to just two ACLs and blood clots for the longer term issues. Nicolás Lodeiro is back, and maybe ready to start. Both Roldans are back from the Gold Cup. The bench can be full of MLS talents and there’s even a possibility that a couple guys are getting loaned to Defiance again.
KG: The Sounders put together an impressive victory over Tigres in Leagues Cup play, but I’m wondering how much of a factor you think fatigue will be heading into this matchup on Sunday?
DC: Tuesday night to Sunday night shouldn’t be too rough. Plus, Seattle had the weekend prior to the Leagues Cup win off. Maybe there are complications in recovery thanks to the wildfire smoke, but both teams have to deal with training outdoors in fire season. Plus, the improved health means Schmetzer has a bench with talents like Will Bruin, Kelyn Rowe, Jimmy Medranda and recent addition Nicolas Benezet. That’s so much better than guys that aren’t locks to start for Tacoma.
KG: What’s the matchup that both Timbers and Sounders fans alike should be keeping an eye on?
DC: The focus should be on the fullbacks versus wingbacks. With both teams trying to own wide spaces it will be fun watching the four widest players try to pin their opponent back. Brad Smith, Seattle’s left wingback, will be particularly key. When he’s at his best he’s a match changing creator and potential scorer from the “defensive” position. There are other times when the TAM talent struggles to connect with other Sounders and is a liability on defense. While he isn’t key to success or failure this season, matches are much more entertaining when he’s running onto balls through and slanging in crosses and cutbacks.