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Five things to watch in Sounders v Timbers

This game is more than hype. It's a crucial match between two good soccer teams.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

TUKWILA, Wash. — Each soccer game is different. Preferred tactics for both teams may only last a few minutes. What makes this meeting between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers so important is not just the rivalry, not just the Cascadia Cup, but the meeting between two of the strongest teams in the Western Conference. Though they are weakened by injury and absence it will be a solid display of soccer.

This is what you want to watch for while watching.

Starting lineup

Seattle is off next week, but that meant they played midweek. The same is true for Portland. Brian Schmetzer also has, even without Brad Evans and Joevin Jones, 13 starting quality players. Some will push through their fatigue and others will rest. He will make that decision based on “form in games, form in practice, matchups, rest as we’re at the tail end of a long week -- all those things go into consideration.”

Will Bruin is one of the players that rested. He is ready. “I think today we had a good session,” he said Saturday. “It was lively. I think the staff has done really well at making sure that guys are feeling good, and kind of divvying up minutes. I think it is a great opportunity for us, like you said 1 and 2, and we can kind of separate us going into the final stretch.”

Early high press from Seattle

Schmetzer knows that every game looks different in the end, but he will start trying to push tempo and pressure early. This will also be while you are loudest. “I think it is just each MLS game manifests itself in different ways. We always try to push the tempo. We always try to press a little higher up the field and dictate our tempo to teams, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. Kansas City had some good spells of possession against us. Minnesota actually had some good spells of possession against us, but we were able to manufacture ways how to win. If I’m looking at the Vancouver game it was the opposite, they dropped off and we were able to sustain a lot of possession. There were not many transition moments in that game. Each game is different, but we always try to be consistent with the way we start the game, and then the players are smart enough to make those little changes based on nuances of the game.”

Set-piece success

Portland fouls a lot. They do this to control the game, but threatening goal can reduce that foul rate. Scoring does that and gets a goal on the board. Seattle has two quality direct kick takers now — Clint Dempsey and Victor Rodriguez. Look for Nicolas Lodeiro and Cristian Roldan to share indirect and corner kick duties.

This potent part of the Sounders attack will be on display today because the Timbers under Caleb Porter cannot help but foul.

Defending Valeri

Diego Valeri should be on the short list as an MVP candidate. He contributes to every aspect of the Timbers’ success. Schmetzer credits his defense first, “Let’s start at the back. He actually defends when his team requires it. When the goalkeeper gets the ball, or the ball turns over in the defensive third he’s usually one of the outlets that gets their transition game started. Through midfield he’s a good passer-possession guy. Then this year, up front, he’s been lights out, as far as some of the goals he’s scored. He’s had a really good year. He’s a tremendous player and it will take a joint effort by a lot of people to slow him down.”

Torres v slashing forwards

Fanendo Adi is among Portland players that is absent due to injury. “Mattocks is different than Adi. Jordan is different than Will. They just change. They’ve trained with each other all year Mattocks-Adi is just a classic number 9 versus a slasher. Both good players. Both present different problems. But we’ve prepared for both,” Schmetzer said after Saturday’s practice. Slashing-type forwards have caused some trouble for Roman Torres. He needs to control those runs with his massive frame, because Valeri and Darlington Nagbe can thread the ball if Darren Mattocks or Jeremy Ebobisse get free.

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