Cascadia Cup week or, if the team is in the Champions League, Cascadia Cup three days, is here again. It is a time where the small differences between Wesen and Sounder become a little more obvious. These Bauerschweine can be a little timid, but come this week they rise up a bit and play better. They have two MLS matches under their belt, while the Seattle Sounders have just one. Seattle has more competitive matches due to that historic victory.
SaH: Porter has the team playing with a high pace offensively, how is that affecting the defense?
STF: So far it's been going as expected. The defense has been lacking, though Mikael Silvestre had a much better game against Montreal than against New York. Still, under the the Porter system you see the defense playing much higher than normal so that they can help feed the ball through the midfield and ultimately to the attack. It's a system that, if nothing else, certainly provides a more exciting form of soccer than we've seen from the Timbers in 2011 or 2012.
That said, however, Porter's road tactics are completely unknown. We've only seen the Timbers play either in neutral territory (Arizona) or at home. I doubt you'll see the same kind of tactics that the Timbers use at home up in Seattle. It just wouldn't make sense. Additionally, the fact that this is the rivalry game further mixes things up. One thing is for sure... it will be an interesting game and a huge test for Porter.
SaH: Is the Ryan Johnson as center forward experiment working?
STF: It's a little early to say whether he's been a success or not, but he's definitely making himself useful in the target forward position. We saw him score a hat trick against the San Jose Earthquakes with ease in the preseason and then he netted his first goal of the season against the Montreal Impact last week. In some ways, he reminds me a lot of Kris Boyd as a skilled forward who can get the ball on target so long as he gets the required service. The primary difference is he is much cheaper, and willing to run, run, run. With Diego Valeri providing that creative element, he could have a break out year in terms of goals scored.
SaH: Which of the new additions should Sounders fans most concern themselves with?
STF: Diego Valeri. The New York Red Bulls bore witness to how effective Diego Valeri could be as a creative attacking midfielder and they paid the price for not studying up on him thoroughly. Montreal, on the other hand, were able to effectively mute him by focusing 3 guys on him whenever he got the ball. Seattle should learn from Montreal and not New York in this regard. If Seattle gives Valeri the time and space he'll cause considerable damage. That said, don't expect the same routine from him on Saturday either. As stated above, it's Porter's first road game and, as such, a new tactic is sure to be used.
Also don't discount Will Johnson. Sounders fans should be well familiar with him as a former Real Salt Lake man. I can guarantee you that he has not forgotten his days playing against Seattle. Now, as the Timbers' captain, you can be assured that he'll be a huge pain in the ass of the Sounders midfield.
SaH: What inspires you to think that the road woes are gone?
STF: I don't necessarily think they are gone. I hope the Timbers are able to perform better on the road, and I certainly hope they will win on Saturday, but it's a little early to be declaring them road warriors. That said, I don't also don't necessarily believe that their road games will be as brutal as they have been in the past. It's simply a matter of not knowing. By the time the Timbers meet Seattle again later this year, I should have a much better answer for you.
Starting Lineup? In a 4-3-3:
SaH: Seattle's biggest problem against Montreal was chance conversion. It was not their defense against the counter, although that was an issue. The Sounders created a ton of chances and didn't convert. But in that historic win to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League they were the Sounders of the past generating chances and actually converting. They can't count on two 25+ yard blasts by defenders, but Zakuani and Johnson powered plenty of creation. The defense is clearly solid; to only give up a goal a game to a Liga MX side is an indicator that Gspurning & Co will be just fine this year.
STF: How has the loss of Fredy Montero affected the team as a whole? Is he expected to be missed? Is Obafemi Martins expected to fill Montero's role or does he play a different sort of attacking game?
SaH: Without Fredy the creative element will almost always be from the flanks. There is going to be an empty space where he used to be quite often, so Seattle will have to switch the ball quickly to open up more space this year. Martins is more a speed player than creator. So when he gets here he may be in that space, but it will be in order to burst through the defense rather than work a nifty pass or incredible shot. On a whole the offense will likely be better even without Martins just because Zakuani and Martinez will be here the full season.
STF: I noticed Osvaldo Alonso didn't feature in the game against Montreal, but he was playing against Tigres. Why was this? Is he expected to start against the Timbers on Saturday? As one of Seattle's most important players, is there anything new we should expect from him this year?
SaH: Alonso's temper got the better of him after the loss to LA in the Playoffs last year and earned him a post-match yellow for dissent. He will be starting Saturday. He is getting forward more often this season and even serving corners at times. He is still the stalwart on defense limiting penetration through the middle in ways that few players in the world can.
STF: Is Eddie Johnson Seattle's most hipsteriest player?
SaH: Seattle fashion probably has three elements. There's the grunge inspired outdoor chic that is the usual attire of Brad Evans. There is the geek in all of us, which includes Mauro Rosales wearing adidas/Star Wars athletic gear. Then there is the hipster/Urkle look. Eddie grabbed that as his own just this week. It is a frightening development.
Predicted starting line up:
That's if Estrada comes back from injury. Evans is out while Rosales is probable. Johansson may be back.