The Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers meet again in what promises to be an intense, action-packed game of attacking soccer. The playoff race has never been tighter, and three points earned or lost by either team could be enough to make or break their season.
Here are five things to know about the match:
The away team is on quite a roll
Probably the most bizarre aspect of this fixture in recent years is that the home team rarely gets it done against their rival. Since the beginning of 2019, the Sounders and the Timbers have met 10 times. The home team has won once (the Timbers beat the Sounders 1-0in September 2020, notably played in an empty stadium). The results have varied in embarrassment, but the worst was undoubtedly when the Sounders put six past the Timbers at Providence Park last year. The match finished with a final score of 6-2 to the visitors. The Timbers somewhat repaid that favor earlier this year when they won 3-0 at Lumen Field, ruining the Sounders’ CCL celebration. This is the Sounders’ first time returning to the stadium since that resounding victory.
Cristian Roldan will be out for a while
The news broke this week that Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan would be unavailable for selection for the next 4-6 weeks after undergoing successful surgery on a sports hernia. This is a huge blow for both Cristian and the Sounders, as Roldan has been one of the Sounders’ most productive players this year. But of course, Cristian’s well-being is the most important thing here, so we all wish him the best of luck on his road to recovery.
Last week’s match against the LA Galaxy saw the Sounders switch their formation around to incorporate a back five, with Nouhou dropping back a line to partner with Xavier Arreaga and Yeimar Gomez Andrade in the center of defense. This change was implemented for a few reasons, including the absence of Roldan and the team’s struggle to create pretty much anything meaningful in the classic 4-2-3-1 in recent weeks. The change worked really well, and aside from a couple of costly errors early in the match, the Sounders came back from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 late in the second half. A controversial stoppage-time penalty call was all that separated them from a well-earned 3 points on the road. With a crucial match against the Timbers just hours away, I would be shocked to see much alteration.
There is more than pride on the line
The satisfaction of beating your archrival is a feeling second to none. Equally, the devastation of a loss hits harder than almost everything else. But this time there’s a lot more on the line than a typical regular-season match. This one game could define the rest of the season for both teams. The playoff race has never been more intense, and going into this match both the Timbers and the Sounders are on the outside looking in. Three points could be enough to boost one team into a prime position to snatch one of the last playoff spots within reach, sending the other team on a downward spiral to the bottom.
Portland love to draw
There hasn’t been very much joy for Timbers fans this season. Their 3-0 win against the Sounders was probably the highlight of their season. Not much else has gone well for them, aside from their league-topping draw count! In 27 games, Portland have earned 12 draws — a league high. They went 10 games unbeaten through the summer, but only managed to win 4 of those games — more wins than they earned in the other 17 games combined. If nothing else, you can always expect a lot of goals in matches involving the Timbers. They have one of the worst defenses in goals conceded (7th worst) and one of the best attacks in scoring goals (T-6th best).