The Sounders just wrapped up practice Saturday, their last work before taking the field against rival Portland in front of 67,000 fans Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Here are a few updates:
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— Obafemi Martins will be a game-time decision, according to coach Sigi Schmid. The forward suffered a sprained ankle two weeks ago against Toronto FC and missed last week’s game in Houston. He showed up a day late to practice this week and it’s uncertain if his availability will be affected by that. We’ll see Sunday.
— The rest of the team’s health is pretty good. Schmid said Osvaldo Alonso, Djimi Traore and Eddie Johnson are all fine after either being limited this week or having taken a knock in practice.
— So what does Schmid think of the possibility of maybe seeing all three DPs and national team players on the field together? “That’d be great,” he said. “Right now I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch here, but it would be great. Obviously with national team call-ups and things like that, and injuries, we haven’t had a chance to put them all on the field at the same time together, so you’re only going to know how it’s going to work, what system is best for all of them, once we get them on the field together.”
— Portland is dealing with some personnel issues, as well, with a suspension to Diego Chara and injuries to a few others, but Schmid said preparation doesn’t change as the Timbers style of play likely won’t be affected. Schmid said he expects Will Johnson back from the shoulder injury for the visitors.
— When it comes to the Timbers improvement, Schmid gave a lot of credit to the team’s player decisions: “They’ve added very good players. (Diego) Valeri has been a good addition for them. They picked up Will Johnson, who’s been a good addition for them. Ryan Johnson has been a good addition. Rodney Wallace has been found off the scrapheap and he’s been a big plus for them. (Darlington) Nagbe is obviously comfortable playing under Caleb Porter. Defensively they found (Pa Modou) Kah at the last minute, and he’s helped them in the back. So they’ve added quite a few good players.”
— Schmid definitely noticed some emotions coming out in the final practice of the week: “I talked to them about making sure they save it for tomorrow — that we’re not kicking Seattle players, that we’re kicking Portland players — so I think our guys are ready.”
— Asked if he’ll be picking Blair Gavin‘s mind to pick up anything on Porter (Gavin played under the Timbers first-year coach at Akron), Schmid joked: “If Caleb and me were playing 1v1 I might have to pick his mind a little bit and see how Caleb’s going to play me. I know he’ll come in hard, studs up, so I’ll be ready for that. I’m not quick enough to get away from him any more.”
— Lastly, I asked Schmid if he fears any subconscious sense within the team that players might feel things will come easier this season now that Clint Dempsey is on the roster. “No,” he said. “There’s always that thing when you have good players on your team where maybe you sit back and say, ‘Let’s just watch him to his thing,’ but you can’t do that. The moment you do that, you’re not going to be successful — and they know that. This is a team that wants to make the playoffs, that wants to get in the playoffs. We realize the importance of this game in that pursuit, and that’s the major importance of this game. Yeah it’s Portland, and there’s a rivalry, and we want to beat Portland, and there’s Cascadia Cup and all that, but the No. 1 thing on our minds is we want to put ourselves in a good position for the playoffs and we need to get wins to get there.”