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August 25, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers, preview and prediction

Portland Timbers LogoSounders FC (10-8-4) vs. Portland Timbers (9-3-12)
Sunday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
National TV: ESPN2 (Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman, Alexi Lalas)
Local radio: KIRO 97.3-FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Referee: Jair Marrufo

KEY TIMBERS PLAYERS

M Diego Valeri — The first-year designated player has been one of the league’s top newcomers and could be in line for all the top honors (MVP, Best XI, etc.), especially considering the torrid streak he’s on right now. The Argentine has seven assists in the past six games, at least one in each of the past four games. On top of that, he’s got five goals as a center attacking mid. Be sure to check out some of his back story, too.

GK Donovan Ricketts — Nine shutouts are tied for the league lead. Saving 74 percent of shots faced is second-best among regular starters, same with a 1.00 goals-against average. He’s made 71 total saves this season, and eight have those have resulted in MLS Save of the Week honors. Portland executives swear by this guy, who was acquired in a like-for-like trade involving Troy Perkins.

F Ryan Johnson — Another Jamaican veteran that has been a revelation, though the 28-year-old is higher up the field as the lone forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Eight goals are already his second-best for a season, and he’s got two in the past three games. He’s been all over the league — Real Salt Lake, Chicago, San Jose and Toronto — but really found a home in the Rose City.

KEY MATCHUPS

Rodney Wallace vs. DeAndre Yedlin — Both were key figures in Portland’s late equalizer on March 16. That was Wallace’s first goal of the year; it came off the bench and helped secure his place as a starter, where he has five goals and five assists in his best season. Yedlin gets another stern test, having proved capable of playing with the elite while still prone to the occasional rookie mistake.

Eddie Johnson vs. Pa-Madou Kah — In case you missed it, Johnson has done well for himself in the series. He’s got three goals in four games against the Timbers, including one earlier this year. He’ll be going against Portland’s depth as guys like Mikael Silvestre, David Horst and Futty Danso are all out injured. Though Kah earned praise from Schmid as someone who has stepped up here when needed.

Big brother vs. better brother? — The dynamic is different this time in the series. The Sounders have been around longer, won trophies, earned playoff berths, but the Timbers have certainly had the better season, so far. That has been mainly before Seattle brought in Clint Dempsey, however. Either way, the whole league will be watching this one, and the winner is surely going to get a huge boost for the final two months.

PREDICTION

So many topics in this one, but let’s not forget the 67,000 people that will be in attendance. The Sounders are 4-0 with crowds in excess of 55,000 with a 11-1 goal differential. Seattle is also on a franchise-best nine-game unbeaten streak at home, one that started with the 1-1 tie on March 16.

I certainly see the home team getting goals, but how many will they concede? The Sounders have had just one shutout in their past seven games and will be going up against a full strength offense; the Timbers injuries have been mainly at center back and holding mid.

This is certainly one of the biggest regular-season games in the history of a team that hasn’t sent big crowds home unhappy.

Sounders FC 2, Portland 1

SEA — Clint Dempsey (Brad Evans) 29′
POR — Darlington Nagbe (Will Johnson) 34′
SEA — Eddie Johnson (Mauro Rosales) 65′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction, Sounders FC

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