The season reboot for Seattle Sounders starts with a tough road trip to Portland to face the Timbers. This first match of the 2021 Cascadia Cup comes on nearly full rest, but then Seattle has a midweek and weekend match on an intense road trip prior to hosting the Reign-Sounders versus Portland doubleheader.
Sunday’s match was delayed to an announced 7 PM PT kickoff. As it is on FS1 the actual kick wll be at 7:25 PM. That should mean that most of the heat from the current heat dome has faded. Both teams and attendees will still be dealing with the smokes from wildfires. Remember to hydrate when the players do and also when they don’t. The crowd is expected to be masked except when at their seats.
Portland is a slightly worse than average side so far this year (7-8-2, -6), though six of their wins are at Providence Park. The once invincible Sounders showed a spark of greatness in the win over Tigres UANL in the Leagues Cup. The return to health of the squad may mean another summer run, as long as the Portland Timbers don’t get in the way.
For Stumptown Footy, Kyle answers Three Questions.
SaH: While the Allocation Money will help Portland in the future, how do the Timbers make up for the loss of Jeremy Ebobisse now?
STF: For starters, it just sucks to see Jebo go. He meant so much to this community not just on the pitch, but off it as well. He’s a wonderful human being through and through and I think that makes it that much harder to see him go. His on-field presence will be missed, too. A lot of Portland fans feel like they never got to see Ebobisse get the full go-ahead to play at the No. 9 spot and make it his own because of the parade of strikers the Timbers brought in during Ebobisse’s tenure (Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese, however, has noted that the majority of his minutes with Portland came as a center forward). He’s a versatile player who provides a lot offensively to a club. The hope for Portland is that Sebastian Blanco’s recovery continues, Felipe Mora continues to score goals, and Jaroslaw Niezgoda gets healthy soon so that they have that depth at the 9.
SaH: After playing the second half of the 3-2 win over RSL, is Sebastián Blanco back for real? How will his return strengthen the team?
It was awesome getting to see Blanco play a whole half after the numerous setbacks he’s suffered. In my opinion, when healthy, he’s pretty easily the best player on the Timbers. The way that he connects an offense with his pinpoint passing and just general offensive feel is noticeable to say the least. There have been multiple games where the Timbers have slogged through the first half only to have Seba come on in the 65th minute or so and completely revamp the offense, and he’s doing it while not at full health. If Blanco returns back to even like 90% of his 2020 MLS is Back MVP form, the Timbers will be dangerous.
SaH: Why is the defense struggling this season? What should fans watch to see if it’s working?
STF: Watch the back line and see how well they recover. A lot of times it seems that the Timbers will do a great job utilizing their fullbacks in the attack, having them do underlapping runs that help bolster the offense, only to falter defensively. It hasn’t been as bad as last year – or at least it doesn’t feel as bad – but too often the Timbers have been caught sleeping after putting together a great attacking chance. The biggest key is whether or not the back line can recover quickly after an initial attack, because they can be vulnerable on the counter.
Check out their match previews and the reverse when they are available.