Sounders at Portland Timbers - Three Questions

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

This rivalry "deeper than hate" will always be on national TV. NBC Sports will have the EPL as lead-in programming for the Noon MLS match between Seattle and Portland.

This early season sees these two Cascadia rivals in disappointing space. Seattle Sounders FC dropped home points and sits with six in four played. That is much better than the struggling Portland Timbers FC, who have yet to win. The Rose City is only 0-2-2 with some visible holes when their lineup is at its ideal. They will be less than ideal on Saturday.

Michael from Stumptown Footy answers Three Questions to prepare you for your voyage (whether to the Glass House, the bar, or your home).

SaH: With so many injuries and suspensions who will be the biggest loss?

STF: Darlington Nagbe's absence would be the biggest loss for the Timbers, though Donovan Ricketts' continued suspension is not exactly a good situation either. As you're well aware, Andrew Weber is nothing special and has already given up three goals in less than two hours on the field. But losing Nagbe would be a major blow as he has been Portland's best attacking player this season. In the second half at Dallas, with one less player on the field for both teams, the Timbers should have been set up perfectly to take advantage of all that extra space. But without Nagbe on the field, the attack did next to nothing until Kalif Alhassan came on sparked a bit of creativity. Michael Harrington's possible suspension, depending on how the MLS Disciplinary Committee handles Portland's appeal of his red card, would hurt as well, but in that case Jack Jewsbury would rotate to left back and Alvas Powell would start at right back, as demonstrated in the second half at Dallas.

SaH: Are the issues in the attack more about creating chances or finishing?

STF: Both. The Timbers have not been able to create nearly as many good looks as they did a year ago, and when they do, they've not finished them. Caleb Porter would probably point to several poor offside calls in Colorado and the ritual beat down of Nagbe as reasons the plan hasn't come off as designed, yet the issues are simpler than that. Mostly Gaston Fernandez and Diego Valeri are too similar, Maxi Urruti hasn't done much of anything and injuries have limited the minutes of Rodney Wallace, Steve Zakuani and Kalif Alhassan. As much as Porter favors flexibility and interchangeable parts in his attackers, last season's version had much more defined roles for each player. So far this year the constant rotation and lack of full fitness has prevented that rhythm that allowed Portland to blast away for much of last season. Add to that Will Johnson's extremely slow start and this just isn't a very good offensive team right now. That said, the talent is there so whenever they do put it all together, even if not this week, it's going to be pretty attractive stuff.

SaH: Jack Jewsbury seems to be losing a step. He's either going to match up with a former track star (Remick) or Yedlin. Can he handle that task?

STF: In my opinion, Jewsbury's demise is a bit overstated. It's true he's not as fast as youngsters like Remick or Yedlin, but it's not like he's significantly slower than he was last year or the years before. Jewsbury's biggest problem this year is that he's been foxed to keep an eye on the central defenders and that is slowing his ability to get into position. Sure he's going to get beat in a footrace with the Fabian Castillos and Deshorn Browns of the world. So are most defenders. But if Portland's interior defenders weren't so bad right now (mostly talking about Norberto Paparatto here), Jewsbury would be freer to concentrate only on his own position. As mentioned earlier, he's likely to play left back this weekend, unless Harrington's red card is overturned, and Alvas Powell, who IS as fast as Remick and Yedlin, will be at right back

Bonus #1: Are the stairs in the away section safe yet? Yes

Expected XI: GK - Andrew Weber; LB - Jack Jewsbury CB - Pa Modou Kah CB - Norberto Paparatto RB - Alvas Powell; CM - Diego Chara CM - Will Johnson; LM - Gaston Fernandez ACM - Diego Valeri RM - Kalif Alhassan; F - Maxi Urruti

Injuries/Suspensions: Michael Harrington (red card suspension), Donovan Ricketts (red card suspension), Darlington Nagbe (hamstring), Steve Zakuani (day-to-day, hamstring), Rodney Wallace (ACL recovery)

*assuming Harrington red card stands

* * *

reverse

STF: How big of a loss is Djimi Traore at this point in the season?

SaH: Sigi has two options in replacing Traore. One of them makes the team better in the air, even more pumped for the rivalry and maybe a bit more likely to give up a goal. Zach Scott seems to be fading away from the coach's attention, but was mentioned as an option this week. Much more likely is the man who came in to replace Djimi - Jalil Anibaba. The former Fire player was a stalwart for them. He's a fast defender who plays to the right of the keeper, whether as a right back or a right centerback. His first appearance with Seattle went OK. He does seem to make more sense as an RCB next to Yedlin as he is more able to step out and cover than Marshall.

Djimi broke down late last year so rotation was expected, but I'm guessing Sigi didn't want to be forced into the decision.

STF: Clint Dempsey seemed pretty annoyed at his suspension for hitting Mark Bloom in the nuts. Will he be on his best behavior on Saturday?

SaH: This is Clint Dempsey. He is an aggressive attacking player with a bit of history of lashing out. He tends to kick out after getting tackled. There's no reason to expect this to change. Considering that Chara took him out last year and separated his shoulder I'd guess that Clint plays even harder. He's rides the edge. He will continue to do it and in a rivalry game like this that edge may just cut somebody.

STF: Will Brad Evans play? What about the non-injured national team players?

SaH: They pulled back Evans' training regimen and withdrew him from the USA v Mexico game so that he could possibly fully heal for Saturday. Currently I feel like there's a 50/50 chance that he plays. How much Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin play will be determined after the friendly. Both could go 90 in each match, but it shouldn't be expected. Yedlin is more likely to play more total minutes and will almost certainly start at Providence Park. It is foreseeable that Clint is only the first sub on the road.

Bonus #1 You've been writing some terrible poetry this week. What can we do to make it stop?

Stopping in Autumn
Cascadia Cup high above
Greens, blues, shales below

Expected XI: Frei; Remick, Marshall, Anibaba, Yedlin; Pineda, Alonso, Rose; Dempsey, Martins, Neagle
Injuries/Suspensions: Traore is suspended. Evans is questionable. Lowe is questionable.

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