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October 13, 2013 at 12:38 AM

Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers, preview and prediction

Portland Timbers LogoSounders FC (15-10-6) vs. Portland Timbers (12-5-14)
Sunday, Oct. 13, 6 p.m., Jeld-Wen Field, Portland, Ore.
National TV: ESPN (Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman, Alexi Lalas)
Local radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Referee: Hilario Grajeda

KEY TIMBERS PLAYERS

M Darlington Nagbe — The good friend of Steve Zakuani and former Akron standout is in his third season in MLS. He had a combined eight goals and four assists in his first two; he has nine goals and four assists this year. Safe to say, he’s developing into a star in front of our eyes. He also has a penchant for scoring some amazing goals, as seen here and here. Shouldn’t be a surprise his college coach is bringing out the best in him.

F Maximiliano Urruti — The new arrival comes by way of Toronto FC, which signed him and traded him to Portland within a couple weeks. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he’s a different type of forward than the other Timbers; he likes to play and combine more than mainly trying to get in behind the defense. The 22 year old from Argentina has also shown a flair for the brilliant, as seen in his only league goal so far.

M Will Johnson — In his first year with Portland after being a mainstay at Real Salt Lake, and he’s had a breakthrough in production with eight goals and five assists (both career highs). He had 10 goals in 120 games over six years coming into this season. Missed a few games recently with a shoulder injury, including the Timbers’ 1-0 loss to the Sounders in August, but he’s right back to where he left off.

KEY MATCHUPS

Diego Valeri vs. Osvaldo Alonso — These two guys could be MLS Best XI selections this season. Valeri has the inside track to Newcomer of the Year, and right now he’d have my vote due to eight goals and 12 assists as a central attacking midfielder. That will put him in the same space on the field as The Honey Badger, who is surely eager to shut things down after the recent defensive woes. Not to mention Alonso already has 10 fouls against the Timbers this season.

Clint Dempsey vs. Pa Modou Kah — Could be an intriguing matchup on the field, but I just wanted to bring back this article where the Timbers defender said of Dempsey: “He’s the best player in MLS? If he’s the best … I’ve seen much, much better in Europe,” and, “If he was so good, he would still be with Tottenham.” Dempsey, of course, is approaching 400 minutes without a goal or assist. What better time to end that drought?

The 2013 Sounders vs. this week’s Sounders — What an epic free-fall we’ve seen the past two games. Nine goals allowed has already matched a franchise worst for a month (the other instance was June of 2012, when Seattle went 0-2-2 and allowed nine amid the team’s longest winless streak). The fact that the team still controls its own destiny when it comes to the Supporters’ Shield is just an reminder of the quality we’ve seen otherwise.

PREDICTION

Jeld-Wen Field, by at least one measure, is the hardest place to play in the league: The Timbers are 10-1-4, best in MLS this season. Maybe not the setting for an increasingly desperate team to turn things around.

Simply put, it’s hard to have confidence in the Sounders coming in and getting a result. The defense is in shambles. It sounds like a goalkeeper change could be coming. The roster is still depleted by injuries and national team call-ups.

Portland, on the other hand, is on a five-game unbeaten streak, tied for the longest active run in the league. I see it running to six.

Portland Timbers 2, Sounders FC 0

POR — Will Johnson (pk) 39′
POR — Max Urruti (Diego Chara) 83′

*     *     *

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

| More in Preview and prediction

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