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Preview: Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers

The first Sounders Timbers Cascadia Cup clash of the season

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

Roll out all your clichés because it’s time for America’s biggest soccer rivalry to take place. LA has the stars and the cute name. Texas has the cannon trophy. Ohio has a sign that describes their state. But, above all else, Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers has the history. Seattle and Portland have met on 116 occasions across all competitions since their first NASL meeting in 1975, with Seattle leading the all-time series 56-45-15. The 117th meeting takes place this Saturday night, so let’s look into the matchup a little bit.

One key stat

6-2 — Seattle’s last win in Portland was by a score of 6-2.

What the Sounders will try to do

Seattle is coming into this matchup wanting to exorcise more demons. Last season, they lost both matchups against Portland and now have a three-game losing streak in the rivalry. Should they lose on Saturday, they’ll be the first team to ever lose four Cascadia Cup matches in a row. Yeah. Let’s not do that.

As for what could happen in this match, I feel like a broken record when I say this, but it comes down to the midfield. Josh Atencio, who played the game of his life against St. Louis City SC last weekend will miss Saturday’s match due to an abductor strain he picked up in training this week. Albert Rusnák is traveling with the team down to Portland, but his place in the starting lineup is in question. The good news? João Paulo and Obed Vargas are fully fit.

There’s a massive call Brian Schmetzer has to make. Léo Chu or Raúl Ruidíaz? The hot hand or the Timbers Slayer?

What the Timbers will try to do

So, the Timbers haven’t really done anything this season...which is kind of a problem. They have the third-highest Expected Goals Allowed number (11.1 xGA) in the league, with only Montreal and RSL having worse totals. They also happened to have the second worse Expected Goals total (6.0 xG), only Montreal is worse (5.5 xG). So, they concede a lot of chances and don’t create their own. Not good.

To make matters worse they have an insanely long list of injuries. I don’t typically put the full injury report but this is stunning to look at:

  • OUT: Felipe Mora (left knee)
  • OUT: Sebastian Blanco (left knee)
  • OUT: Yimmi Chara (right hamstring)
  • OUT: David Bingham (left hamstring)
  • OUT: Eryk Williamson (right knee)

That’s more or less five starters for them. Eryk Williamson, their best midfielder, tore his ACL this week. Just brutal luck for them. Keep in mind, this injury list looks better than the ones they’ve put out in previous weeks.

Vibe check

The vibes around this fixture always kind of go out the window. It doesn’t matter how terrible one team is or how incredible the other is, both sets of fans are equally nervous. With that said, this is about as confident as I’ve ever been heading into a Portland v Seattle match. The Sounders seem hellbent on finding every single demon from their past and exercising it this season. I’m expecting a big Seattle win, so of course, this section will be screenshot to laugh in my face on Saturday night.

How close to full strength is everyone?

  • Portland is, I kid you not, more fit than they’ve ever been this season. That’s still not very fit at all.
  • As I wrote above, you can probably expect to see Rusnák and Atencio not start this one. Otherwise, the team is pretty much at full strength.

Projected lineups

Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Nouhou, Ragen, Yeimar, A. Roldan; João Paulo; Vargas; Chu, Lodeiro, C. Roldan; Morris

Timbers (4-3-3): Ivacic; Rasmussen, Zuparic, Mabiala, Miller; Chara, Paredes, Evander; Asprilla, Boli, Mosquera

What you need to know

Sounders record (1st in the West, 2nd in the Shield): 5-1-1, +12 GD

Timbers record (12th in the West, 25th in the Shield): 1-4-2, -6 GD

Where: Providence Park, Portland, Ore.

Kickoff time: 7:39pm PT

Commentators (AppleTV): Jake Zivin and Taylor Twellman

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