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Scouting Report: How to cut the Timbers down to size

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Returning players mean Portland gets a lot more threatening this time around

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: Photos Photo Credit - MikeRussellFoto

Who You’ll Watch

For the second time in a month, the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers will square off in MLS play. This will be the Sounders only trip to Providence Park this season in regular season play.

During Memorial Day weekend, the Sounders came out on top of the Timbers on a fourth minute goal from Cristian Roldan. Seattle will be looking to win their second road game of the season and win at Providence Park for the first time since 2014.

Portland is in third place of the Western Conference (24 points on 17 games played; 1.41 ppg) while the Sounders sit in eighth place (20 points on 17 games played; 1.18 ppg). With a win, and depending how the rest of the west shakes out, the Sounders could end the weekend in fifth place. A win for Portland would put them at the top of the standings.

This will be the third Cascadia Cup match for the Sounders, and all three teams are sitting on three points. A win by either team will see them at the top of those standings.

Last time out, Portland lost 3-2 against Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night. The Sounders drew 1-1 with Orlando City, also on Wednesday night.

The Timbers will be without Sebastian Blanco after he picked up a straight red card. Roy Miller will also be out due to yellow card accumulation.

Current Form

Timbers: L-W-W-L-L; seven goals scored and six conceded

Top Scorers: Diego Valeri, nine goals

Top Assist Leader: Valeri, six assists

Sounders: W-L-W-L-T; thee goals scored and six conceded

Top Scorers: Will Bruin, five goals

Top Assist Leader: Joevin Jones and Nicolas Lodeiro, five assists

Injuries

Portland

Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles tear, out for season), Jack Barmby (ankle injury) and Liam Ridgewell (quad injury) are all listed as out. Chance Myers (hamstring injury) is also listed on the injury report.

Seattle

Brad Evans (left calf strain) and Seyi Adekoya (left ankle sprain) are listed as questionable.

What to Watch

Since we last saw Portland five weeks ago, a couple key pieces have returned (Diego Chara, Diego Valeri, and a 12 of David Guzman), while a few other key pieces will be missing. Blanco is probably the biggest of the names that will miss the match, but, in terms of importance, it’s Miller that is the biggest loss. Getting Valeri back instantly makes this a much more difficult matchup, and his importance really can’t be understated.

Caleb Porter will almost certainly stick to a 4-2-3-1 and slot either Dairon Asprilla or Darren Mattocks in on the left in place of Blanco. Blanco isn’t bad, but the drop off in production won’t be large, and both Asprilla and Mattocks are capable of good play themselves.

Force the center to defend - Ridgewell’s latest injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for a team already struggling at the back. Roy Miller’s suspension on card accumulation means the only two natural CBs left on the first team roster, Amobi Okugo and Lawrence Olum, will be starting together for the first time, and on a short week.

Even the mid-week game against the Loons didn’t offer up a lot of confidence for the Timbers. Both Chara and Guzman were forced to sit deeper and involve themselves in the central defense far more than they would prefer to help protect Miller and Okugo. In turn, this pulls the offensive line further back, and forces them to take more field when they try to advance in attack or counter.

As has become a common thread this season - Seattle has the parts to take advantage of this, can they find the execution?

DON’T GIVE VALERI SPACE (h/t Jeff) - This one is really simple. It involves the whole team staying tight on a single player, and always having the entire defense aware of his location. If you skimmed, go back and look at who is leading PTFC’s goal and assist categories. he is, without a doubt, the most vital piece to what Portland does, and, largely, as he goes so go the Timbers. He enjoys sitting the space between the CBs and CDMs, shifting between acting as a CAM and a withdrawn forward. He drifts wide to help overload, sits high to press in partnership with Adi. He will punish the smallest opening with a shot or pass that slices multiple players out before they recognize the development. Did I mention not to give Valeri space?

His range of involvement on the field means that this can’t just be given to the best CDM line in the league in Roldan and Osvaldo Alonso. The anticipated return of Brad Evans adds another defender who does well with tracking players. Roman Torres will have to step his positioning and movement up a notch. Joevin Jones will have to ensure he does not leave acres of space in his wake while attacking. It will take considerable effort and energy to ensure Valeri must work hard for every chance he gets.

Expected Lineups

Portland: Jake Gleeson; Alvas Powell, Olum, Okugo, Vytas; Chara, Guzman; Asprilla, Valeri, Darlington Nagbe; Fanendo Adi

Seattle: Stefan Frei; Jones, Chad Marshall, Torres, Evans; Alonso, Roldan; Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey, Lodeiro; Bruin

How to Watch

Date/Time: Sunday, June 25 7:30 PM

Venue: Providence Park

Television: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes+

Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)