A look at who to key on in the Sounders Western Conference Semifinals first leg with Portland.
Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers
MLS Cup Playoffs; Western Conference Semifinals
November 2, 2013, 7 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network; 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)
It’s a dream playoff matchup as Sounders FC meets the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference Semifinals in a two-leg, aggregate-goal series beginning Saturday at CenturyLink Field. The two teams split three meetings in the regular season at 1-1-1, but the playoffs are a different beast altogether.
Here are three matchups to watch in the postseason clash.
Clint Dempsey vs. Diego Chara
In his first start back from a hamstring strain, Dempsey was harshly tackled from behind by Chara early in the October 13 match at JELD-WEN Field, injuring Dempsey’s shoulder in the process. Dempsey hasn’t missed a start since, but will likely be looking to mount some revenge in the form of an offensive explosion on Saturday. He has one goal and one assist in the last two matches. Chara will likely join forces with Will Johnson in an attempt to keep Dempsey quiet. Chara covers a lot of defensive ground, but finished third in the league with 74 fouls and had seven yellow cards to show for his efforts. In three matches against Real Salt Lake, who employ the same diamond formation that Seattle has found success with in the last two matches, Chara committed 17 fouls and picked up a yellow card in each contest. Portland also went 0-1-2 in those matches.
Eddie Johnson vs. Pa Modou Kah
In five career matches against the Timbers, Johnson has four goals, including goals in both matches he played against Portland this year. Seattle’s leading scorer in each of the last two years, Johnson is a consistent aerial threat and will be put to the test against Kah. The two engaged in a battle in an August 25 match at CenturyLink Field and Johnson emerged the victor with a goal on a header as Seattle won 1-0. In 20 starts for Portland, Kah has made an impact at center back. In those matches, Portland has 11 shutouts and allowed just 14 goals.
Diego Valeri vs. Osvaldo Alonso
Valeri was hot and cold in two matches against Seattle and, like Chara on Dempsey, Alonso will be charged with slowing down the top playmaker. Valeri had 10 goals and 13 assists in 2013, but none against Seattle. In the first meeting in March, he was aggressive, taking five shots in the 1-1 draw, though he didn’t figure into the scoring. In the second match in August, though, he had just one shot and Portland’s offense sputtered in a 1-0 win for Seattle. Alonso was Best XI in 2012 and Valeri will likely be in 2013, so it’s a matchup for the ages as they square off on Saturday.