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Five things to watch when Sounders host Timbers

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We play Portland again.

Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders FC Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

For all the success the Seattle Sounders have had against the Portland Timbers on the road — three straight wins — their record at home is not nearly as impressive. Since 2018, the Sounders have hosted the Timbers four times in competitive matches and have failed to secure the desired result in any of them (technically the Sounders won the playoff game at CenturyLink but failed to advance after falling in penalties). Going back to 2017, the Sounders are now on a three-game home winless streak against the Timbers in regular-season play (0-2-1). Here’s what we’ll be looking for when the Sounders have a chance to change all that on Sunday:

Heir to the throne

In just a handful of appearances against the Portland Timbers, Raúl Ruidíaz has established himself a deserving heir to the King of Cascadia throne. The Sounders striker now has seven goals and two assists in six career appearances against the Timbers, including a brace and an assist in the last meeting on Aug. 24. He’s also riding a five-game scoring streak against the Timbers. If Ruidíaz can repeat that performance, he’ll equal Clint Dempsey’s career tally against the Timbers. - JO

Who did it better?

We all know that some rotation is going to be mandatory during this congested part of the schedule. Brian Schmetzer responded by swapping out five players for the midweek affair against RSL. Not to be outdone, Gio Savarese rotated his WHOLE lineup (yes, the goalkeeper, too). The Sounders tied their game against RSL, while the Timbers’ late comeback attempt fell short in a 3-2 loss to the LA Galaxy. Savarese appears to have been willing to sacrifice points at home for a better chance to upset their rivals. We’ll see if it paid off. - JO

Life on the road

To be quite honest, I was a little shocked to realize that the Timbers have not played a real road game all season. Sure, they won the MLS is Back Tournament, which in a sense was ALL on the road, but that was the case for everyone there (even Orlando City was forced to stay in a hotel and away from the comforts of home). In their five in-market games, however, the Timbers have only played at Providence Park, going just 1-3-1 in those contests. Maybe getting away from Portland is just what they need... - JO

Bust up the counter

We all know by now that the Timbers are a one-trick pony. That one trick is to cede possession to the opposition and hope to break away on the counter attack, using stars Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco to transition the ball into dangerous areas. The solution is simple: Stop the counter, stop the Timbers.

The Sounders will be without Gustav Svensson in the midfield as he’s off to play for Sweden. Insert the trusty Jordy Delem. Seattle should have enough offensive firepower on the field so that Delem’s sole focus can be on busting up Portland’s counter. It suits his play style well and it is a role he can excel in. - MK

Steady hand on the tiller

Xavier Arreaga got his first start since the MLS is Back Tournament on Wednesday and his performance was mixed. He picked up a yellow card for an unnecessary tactical foul within the first 20 minutes, but otherwise had an OK performance. The caveat being, of course, that the Sounders played with three CBs.

Seattle should revert to the pairing of Shane O’Neill and Yeimar Gómez Andrade against Portland on Sunday. It’s the pairing that helped the Sounders keep a clean sheet in Portland and it’s the most no-nonsense pairing they can put forward. Arreaga will get his time to play again, but it shouldn’t be against Portland. - MK

Projected Lineup

Design by Charles Caldwell