The Sounders head down south to visit the unfriend confines of Providence Park and play the Portland Timbers on Sunday in a nationally televised game (2pm PT ESPN). Like every matchup between these two clubs the tension is high, and the stakes are big.
This year they are magnified since both teams are gunning for the playoffs and it seems likely that they are fighting over one final spot because the top five teams in the MLS Western Conference have separated themselves from the bottom of the conference. Last Sunday in a 3-1 Sounders victory that kept Seattle’s playoff hopes alive, the big storylines were the excellence of Clint Dempsey who lead with a brace, and Christian Roldan who had a goal, assist, and a drawn PK. In addition, Portland’s star striker Fenando Adi missed most of the game due to team disciplinary issue. But like Bob Dylan sang, “Times they are a-changing.” What a difference a week makes.
Deuce on the Shelf
Clint “Deuce” Dempsey, Sounder star forward, former USMNT Captain, EPL Star, and DP is out this weekend with a serious health concern. He is out for the foreseeable future with a heart condition. Apparently it is serious enough to withdraw him from Sunday’s big derby match, but not so serious that he has missed any matches until now. Head Man Brian Schmetzer said that the issue was brought to a head due to an incident in a previous match (most likely at Orlando, when he came off early, or last week at home vs. Portland). I could go on and on about Dempsey, but this factoid will suffice. He is second all-time for the USMNT in goals scored, and first all time if you exclude penalty kicks. He hold many other records. Check out his US National Team profile here.Seriously Deuce get well soon.
Squeaking out Points
The Sounders travelled down to the mugginess that is Houston in the summer on Wednesday night and squeaked out a point. This was an ugly poorly played match by both teams. (Though the Houston announcers on the MLS Live feed were just dreadfully bad homers. Sheesh that was terrible to listen to their rooting interest, and poor analysis.
When they insisted that Houston was playing a 4-2-3-1 when right at that moment Houston was aligned defensively in 2 clearly organized banks of 4 defenders, 4 midfielders, and 2 forwards—that is a textbook 4-4-2 guys). Anyway I digress. The match was evenly played until about 70 minutes in when both teams got tired and the Sounders really lost their legs. Somehow our new star Nico Lodeiro was able to find a sliver of space and finish a strike that tied the match 1-1 and saved a point for the Sounders.
This game will hinge on whether the Sounders can harness their fire for the playoffs and their desire to win for the injured Dempsey in productive ways. Seattle has to be the smarter team and not get into petty, chippiness. This game hinges on Jordan Morris’ ability to get out of his own head and just play. Can Morris shoot when he should and pass when he should? Will he once again make Ridgewell and Taylor look foolish? Can he draw defenders away from Lodeiro and allow the superstar playmaker to operate and set up others? Can Seattle get offense from someone other than Lodeiro, Morris or Roldan?
The Sounders leading scorers? Morris with 8, Dempsey with 8, Rodan and Marshall with 3 each followed by Ivanschitz, Lodeiro (!!!), and Jones with 2 apiece. When it comes to assists, the Sounders are led by Ivanschitz with 7 and Lodeiro and Alonso with 4 apiece. Morris and Roldan also have 3 each. Seattle needs to have a plan in case Lodeiro gets bottled up like he was on Wednesday night. Who can step up?
Also, one quick appeal to Brian Schmetzer, please let Ivanschitz take all corner kicks and long range set pieces, please please please. He is far superior to Nico. This would also allow Nico to hang out at the top of the penalty area and either be a menace to the defense or, act as a decoy, or have a chance with the ball at his feet near the goal. His service is average and behind Ivanschitz, Gomez, and Kovar.
So what happens? I think Seattle plays this close. Adi muscles free for a goal, and Valeri does something amazing for a goal. I also think that Morris finally gets a brace and abuses the Portland back line. Portland 2- 2 Seattle.
Winning on the Road
Winning on the road in MLS is terribly hard. No one does it well this year except for NYCFC (an outlier to be sure; their team is built to play on a normal sized field not the postage stamp of Yankee Stadium, that’s why they are 6-4-3 away and 5-3-5 at home– the next best team is 5-6-4 Toronto FC). The good news? There isn’t any. Seattle has two road wins all year. Portland had 3 home losses.
Both of Seattle’s road victories were against the weaker teams in the Eastern Conference. The good news? Seattle has won in Portland before, and the Cascadia teams really don’t have the normal home field advantage that they enjoy versus most of the other teams. Cascadia teams are so close that they can make the match a day trip if they really want to. They also have a great deal of support from traveling supporter’s sections.
If you look at last year, the Sounders and Vancouver played 3 MLS matches, the visiting team won each one (Vancouver and Seattle also played in CCL and Seattle drew and won at home). Seattle last won in Portland 4-2 in August 2014. The Timber last won in Seattle on April 30, 2005 1-2 at then Quest Field. So can the Sounders win? Sure. Will they? Perhaps though draw is far more likely.
- Will Parchman of Sounders FC breaks down the loss of Dempsey
- Roman Torres is on the mend, look for him in the 18
- Just the facts on Dempsey
- Dempsey has support, even from rivals
- Sounders to adjust to life without Dempsey
- Check out the Sounders awesome match guide! It’s not ready yet but it’s pretty sweet! 80 pages about the match, under Game Guides
- Portland’s Fans look introspectively after loss 3 things
- Beat reporter Pentz’s Notes
- And his matches to watch this weekend
Seattle — 4-2-3-1
CB Marshall, Torres (!!!!)
DM Alonso, Roldan
Portland — 4-4-2
CB Ridgewell, Taylor
CM Nagbe, Jewsbury
OUT: D – Nat Borchers (ruptured Achilles tendon 7/23, out for season)
QUESTIONABLE: D – Zarek Valentin (bone bruise) –
QUESTIONABLE: M – Ben Zemanski (groin injury) –
QUESTIONABLE: F – Darren Mattocks (hamstring injury 7/10, out 8-10 weeks) –
OUT: M – Aaron Kovar (fractured clavicle 7/20, out 6-8 weeks) – READ
OUT: F – Clint Dempsey (irregular heartbeat) – READ
QUESTIONABLE: D – Roman Torres (left ACL tear)
# Club PTS W L T GD
1 FC Dallas 45 13 7 6 5
2 Colorado Rapids 43 11 3 10 7
3 Real Salt Lake 40 11 8 7 1
4 LA Galaxy 39 9 4 12 14
5 Sporting Kansas City 38 11 11 5 2
6 Portland Timbers 32 8 10 8 -2
7 Seattle Sounders FC 31 9 12 4 -2
8 San Jose Earthquakes 31 7 7 10 -1
9 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 30 8 12 6 -9
10 Houston Dynamo 25 5 10 10 -3