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This is shaping up as a season-defining game

Sounders can turn around their season tonight with a win over the Timbers ... or continue their spiral.

Kayla Mehring / Sounder at Heart

Seasons are full of potentially momentum-shifting moments. Each match presents an opportunity to be a fulcrum for change.

Sometimes, you can’t really know it’s happened until weeks later. Others, you can feel it coming for weeks.

Tonight’s match between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers feels like it is destined to be one of those matches.

The Sounders’ current slide, as you probably know, started with a loss to the Timbers a little more than a month ago. The Sounders had come into the game seemingly ready to take off, coming off consecutive wins, including an impressive display against Atlanta United a few days prior to the Timbers game.

But the loss to the Timbers seemed to almost break the Sounders. Despite generating plenty of scoring opportunities, they managed just a single goal. The postgame scrum with Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark and Sounders centerback Roman Torres at the center of it, suggested that maybe the little brothers were in the big brothers’ head.

In the six games since, the Sounders haven’t exactly collapsed but they’ve not looked remotely confident in one another. Games that could have easily been wins have been ties and games that probably should have been ties have become losses.

But tonight offers a chance to get the season turned around, again.

There’s no denying that the Sounders have the talent to win this game. Even after the surprising retirement of Chad Marshall, the suspension of Torres and the injuries to players like Victor Rodriguez, the Sounders still boast one of the most talented groups in the league. Their starting XI, at least on paper, should match up well with the Timbers, even if they’re basically at full strength.

The Timbers do not have an obvious answer for the speed of Jordan Morris. Nicolas Lodeiro should match up well with Diego Chara. Raúl Ruidíaz has already scored four goals in four games against the Timbers. The Timbers undoubtedly pose the same sort of matchup problems for the Sounders defenders, but opportunities should be there for Seattle to turn recent results on their head.

If they can win this game — and retain the Cascadia Cup — it could provide the sort of boost that carries them deep into the playoffs.

Admittedly, “if” is doing a lot of work there. To do it, the Sounders will need to start trusting themselves and one another again. They need to start finishing the chances they’ve done a surprisingly good job of creating. They need to find that balance between actively defending and avoiding the counter. They need to avoid getting caught in possession without bunkering on the other end. The Sounders have not showed a ton of reason for us to believe they can actually pull themselves together and win this game. They can change that tonight.

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