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September 15, 2012 at 12:56 AM

Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers, preview and prediction

Portland Timbers Logo.jpgSounders FC (13-6-8) vs. Portland Timbers (7-14-6)

Saturday, Sept. 15, 12:30 p.m., Jeld-Wen Field, Portland, Ore.

Network TV: NBC (Arlo White and Kyle Martino)

Radio: 97.3 KIRO-FM (Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller)

Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM

Referee: Ricardo Salazar

KEY TIMBERS PLAYERS

M Darlington Nagbe — The former Akron star has become the focal point for the Portland attack and someone you can build a franchise around. He has three goals in his last five games after not having scored since March. It’ll be interesting to see if he goes up against his good friend Steve Zakuani; the two have never played against each other.

F Bright Dike — You might remember him from before the Timbers’ MLS days. He was one of the standouts in a third-round U.S. Open Cup in 2010, which the Sounders eked out in a penalty-kick shootout. He’s been a late-season spark for Portland with two goals in four starts. Has great athleticism to go with a massive frame — in short, not fun for center backs to deal with.

GK Donovan Rickets — It was a curious trade that sent Troy Perkins to Montreal for the experienced Jamaican and things haven’t been too great in the early going (nine goals allowed in five games). A lot of that has to do with the play in front of him as he’s been called upon to make 20 saves in those five games. As a point of reference, Michael Gspurning has only had to made 36 all season.

KEY MATCHUPS

Eddie Johnson vs. David Horst — One of the more memorable images from the last meeting is these two guys going head to head, literally, as emotions flared late in the game. Neither of these guys will back down. It should be a great physical battle as Horst is a bit more of a brawler at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and can dominate in the air, but EJ can match up and maybe get in behind. Remember Johnson has scored in each Cascadia Cup game so far.

Sal Zizzo vs. Leo Gonzalez — I remember watching Zizzo when he played at UCLA (I was covered UW men’s soccer at the time) and his talent then was obvious. He’s started the last five games for Portland and has a goal and three assists. Seattle’s Costa Rican, however, has taken charge on the left side defensively. Coach Sigi Schmid said earlier this year there might not be many left backs who have had a better season.

Atmosphere/referee vs. talent — All things equal, the Sounders have a better squad. But things won’t be equal Saturday, not to mention the visitors might not be at full strength. The Timbers Army does a tremendous job of making Jeld-Wen Field an intimidating atmosphere and don’t forget results in recent Ricardo Salazar games haven’t been too kind to Seattle (the U.S. Open Cup final, the June game in Portland).

PREDICTION

NBC picked a great one for the first network broadcast of an MLS game since 2008. This should be fun in all aspects — though the gesticulation and excitement on the Portland bench might be lessened without John Spencer.

I think the Timbers will play this one tough. They have the most to lose simply because they don’t have much else to play for. Sure, they’re always playing for jobs and pride, but the chance to walk out of the stadium with a trophy will be huge motivation.

I think it’ll get chippy, it’ll get physical and — in my opinion — that plays in Portland’s hands. I see it ending even…

Sounders FC 2, Portland Timbers 2

SEA — Eddie Johnson (Fredy Montero) 34′

POR — Bright Dike (Frank Songo’o) 45′

SEA — Fredy Montero (Mario Martinez) 61′

POR — Erik Alexander (Sal Zizzo) 69′

* * *

How do you see this one playing out?

COMMENTS

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