In the last game against Seattle, Portland attempted to beat the Sounders with would-be hero Jack McInerney; at least that’s what Caleb Porter may have been hoping would happen when he benched Fanendo Adi. Unfortunately for him, the Portland coach found his side down 3-0 before Adi finally scored against a tired and lackadaisical Seattle back line who had no worries of dropping points. Before the match in Seattle, we discussed Portland’s poor defense and the likelihood of the defensive mids hanging back, creating only a four man offense — and that’s exactly what happened.
Defensively, Portland looked a little less disconnected than expected, but that wasn’t really an improvement, but rather because they probably just had a good day. While it’s possible they will step up for another rivalry game with meaning, they have also been prone to collapsing under pressure this year. With the defense playing about as well as their fans could hope, Portland still gave up three goals against a Seattle offense still finding its feet. If they play better in Portland, it will still be a two goal match for a Seattle offense that’s taking a step backwards with the loss of Clint Dempsey in the lineup. Steven Taylor did not embarrass himself like he did in multiple matches for T2, but that form may not continue. Taylor and Ridgewell may have been a potential Premier League duo at one point, but they look more like a dysfunctional tandem who lack speed almost as much as they lack focus. Without Diego Chara supporting them, they’d give up five or six goals per game to a dangerous attack.
Chara is not the best player currently or long-term for Portland but he is the arguably the most valuable on their roster. In the first half last week Chara sat back near midfield, helping the defense settle down after Seattle’s long spells of possession. In the second half, Portland started to take more possession but Chara still held back near the midfield stripe and played the ball up and out to his attackers, only pushing forward after going down a goal. Around the 75th minute Portland’s offense changed with both Jewsbury and Chara pushing up into the attack. As the Timbers abandoned a stout defensive midfield, Seattle found holes and attacked with significantly less possession yet finding two more goals. If Chara plays poorly, Portland will struggle to get possession. If Chara stops playing defense, they will give up goals. If Chara doesn’t work forward into the attack, they will have a hard time scoring. Unfortunately for Portland, Diego likely can’t do all that effectively meaning they will lean strongly on Valeri and Adi to score and keep Chara back to cover the central defense.
Seattle, on the other hand, will need to figure out how to get goals without Clint “Deuce Goals” Dempsey. With whichever lineup Seattle goes with, there might be a different flair, but overall they’ll have the same style of attack that should have zero problems beating this Portland defense.
Seattle’s back four may include Panamanian centerback Roman Torres who could be available to sub on to face Fanendo Adi. While he’s dangerous at all times, it is late in games against tired defenses where Adi capitalizes the most. If Torres does sub on late in the match, he’ll likely be partnered with Chad Marshall to close out the match so that the Sounders have two big bodies to counter the late threat of Adi. Seattle losing the physical battles against the Nigerian should be a thing of the past; any combination of Evans, Marshall, and Torres should be enough to keep Adi in check.
It will also be up to Seattle’s midfield to stop the interchange between Valeri, Nagbe, and Melano. If the service is limited and Adi is stifled, then Portland will have to hope for the best day ever from their defense if they want to rescue points out of this one. Expect Seattle to step up in this one, get three points on the road, and knock Portland out of playoff position as they move into 6th in the West.
Portland: Gleeson, Powell, S. Taylor, Ridgwell, Vytas; Jewsbury, Chara; Melano, Valeri, Nagbe; Adi
Sounders: Frei, Mears, Evans, Marshall, Jones; Alonso, Roldan; Fernandez, Ivanschitz, Lodeiro; Morris