Sounders FC @ Portland Timbers
October 11, 2013, 6 pm PT; JELD-WEN Field
TV/Radio: ESPN; 97.3 KIRO radio; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)
Throughout the season, Sounders FC has sought its identity. Injuries and international absences have filtered players in and out of the lineup from game-to-game, so the continuity of that personality hasn’t always been consistent.
However, one thing that has been clear over the course of 31 matches is that Seattle is a much better team than the one that has been outscored 9-2 in consecutive losses to the Colorado Rapids and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. On Sunday, the Sounders will have a new opportunity to prove their mettle when they meet the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field and will be aiming to get back on the track for the final three matches of the season.
“We want to prove ourselves,” said Lamar Neagle, who is second on the team with eight goals. “We feel like we let up defensively, but we’re confident.”
Some of those game-by-game adjustments may come on Sunday, although Head Coach Sigi Schmid was unclear with the media when asked just what changes may be in store.
He did express confidence in goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, though. The Austrian shotstopper had a 0.89 goals against average in his 46 starts prior to facing Colorado and Vancouver. In the last two matches, that has climbed to 1.04. While Schmid is weighing the team’s options at goalkeeper with veteran Marcus Hahnemann serving as the backup, he is still confident in Gspurning.
“I think he’s the guy who’s averaged a goal against a game. I think we’re a team that went 14 games undefeated at home. But it’s a matter of finding our form again,” Schmid said. “We haven’t lost faith or confidence or anything like that.”
Elsewhere on the field, Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey are both day-to-day while Leo Gonzalez has worked his way back to fitness after a groin injury kept him out of the last three matches.
A starter in 25 matches this season, Gonzalez has had as good a season as he has had since coming to MLS in 2009. In the six matches that he hasn’t started, Seattle has allowed 13 goals, emphasizing Gonzalez’ importance to Seattle.
“Leo’s an important part to our team,” Schmid said. “He’s a competitor. It’s difficult to play against Leo. He’s very resourceful in how he defends and he’s faster than you think he is.”
On the other side of the field, Seattle meets a Timbers team that has played its way into third place in the Western Conference. The recent addition of Maximiliano Urruti has given them another scoring option at forward, particularly valuable this week as they play without Ryan Johnson and Rodney Wallace while both are away on international duty.
“He’s more of a playing forward, whereas Ryan Johnson is more of a slasher who is trying to get in behind you. That changes them a little bit,” Schmid said. “They are looking a little more for their wide guys to get in behind.”
All changes to the Timbers aside, Seattle is looking internally to right its ship.
“What concerns me is just our team. We’ll worry about ourselves and the Timbers will be worried about themselves,” Schmid said. “It’s all about us and making sure that we’re ready to play.”