Sounders FC (0-1-0) vs. Portland Timbers FC (0-1-1)
Saturday, March 16, 5 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
National TV: NBC Sports Network (John Strong, Brian Dunseth)
Local radio: 97.3 KIRO FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Kevin Stott
KEY PORTLAND PLAYERS
M Diego Valeri — The Argentine DP has been given the keys to the car, as Sounders coach Sigi Schmid put it. Exceptionally skilled as the playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, as seen in his brilliant goal against the Red Bulls in Week 1. That the 26-year-old made a brief appearance with the Argentine national team in 2011 is another example of his talent. I’ll get to some other matchups later, but his with Osvaldo Alonso will be a big one.
D Mikael Silvestre — Certainly didn’t have a great first 45 minutes against the Red Bulls, but he steadied things in the next 135 minutes. If the ex-Manchester United, ex-Arsenal man can become a consistent force on the back line, the Timbers will be much closer to a complete team. You might remember Portland gave two draft picks to Seattle for his rights (note: the Sounders won’t restrict his availability in accordance with the trade).
F Ryan Johnson — One goal in two games so far as a lone forward, and a lot of pressure will be on him this year. Kris Boyd was shipped out. Bright Dike is out with a long-term injury. So it’s up to the 28-year-old journeyman (history includes time with Real Salt Lake, Chicago, San Jose, Toronto) to produce up front. Has all the physical tools with size, speed and strength. And remember this goal?
Darlington Nagbe vs. DeAndre Yedlin — The top Akron products will face off on one side of the field, and what an exciting combination of talent. Seattle’s rookie right back, the feature of one of my preview stories for Saturday, will know a bit about the man a couple years his senior. Nagbe trained with the Zips a few times when Yedlin was in college, so expect some familiarity from both parties in this one.
Steve Zakuani vs. Rian Miller — One the other side of the field will be another interesting matchup, and again featuring an Akron product (there are a handful of them involved). Zakuani said he doesn’t know much about Portland’s new right back, though I’m sure the Timbers have a pretty thorough scouting report available on him. The Sounders winger has been a bit inconsistent so far this year, but when he’s been good, he’s been very good.
Old Timbers vs. New Timbers — The transformation in Portland under first-year coach Caleb Porter is one of the more intriguing stories in MLS this season. The Timbers will look to keep the ball more and play a less direct attack than the team did under previous coach John Spencer. Porter was quick to note that this year’s team has six new starters, and is 0-0 against Seattle and 0-0 on the road. I’m curious to see how they look.
What a great way to cap what has been an exceptionally busy and exciting week. First, there were major developments in the Obafemi Martins move on Monday. Then, the Sounders had the huge triumph in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal on Tuesday. Then, Martins signed and arrived Friday. And now the Seattle-Portland rivalry resumes.
I expect a lot of goals in this one. The Timbers have allowed five goals in two games, so that has been an issue for them in the early going. The Sounders are yet to record in shutout in three games, so things haven’t been airtight for them either.
Ultimately, I think the home team will find a way to end this week on a high. Confidence and excitement should be soaring within the group after Tuesday’s and Friday’s developments.
Sounders FC 3, Portland Timbers 2
SEA — Eddie Johnson (Mario Martinez) 34′
POR — Will Johnson (Diego Chara) 43′
SEA — Steve Zakuani (Andy Rose) 56′
SEA — Lamar Neagle (Osvaldo Alonso) 68′
POR — Ryan Johnson (Kalif Alhassan) 83′
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What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?