Here's what's ahead for the Sounders as they face off against their arch-rivals from the south in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers
MLS Cup Playoffs; Western Conference Semifinals
November 7, 2013, 8 pm PT; JELD-WEN Field
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network; 97.3 FM
We know all the matchups after four meetings between Sounders FC and the Timbers this year, so here are four things to expect from the match between the Cascadia rivals in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal series on Thursday.
Set play danger
In the first leg, there were goals to be had for Seattle on set pieces. Portland’s 21 fouls and Seattle’s 11 corner kicks created plenty of havoc around the Timbers’ goal, but Sounders FC was unable to convert. When they did score it was off of a long throw into the box, but with the likes of Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey on the field, dead ball opportunities are often converted into goals. Of Seattle’s 42 regular season goals, eight came off of corners and free kicks. If the Sounders can earn those chances on Thursday, Portland’s lead could be in danger.
Defend and counter
That was the mantra of the Timbers in the first leg and with a 2-1 series lead in hand, it would be the logical tactic again in the second leg. Portland started the year as an all-out attack-minded team, but has since converted to a more conservative style and that fits them well in the first leg. However, Portland also knows how dangerous an early goal can be for either side, so may try to hit Seattle with a quick strike to establish the home field advantage.
While an early goal would break the game wide open for Seattle, Head Coach Sigi Schmid has also told his team that it doesn’t matter when the goals come, as long as they put one away. A 90th minute goal is worth just as much as a first minute goal, as long as Sounders FC is able to keep the Timbers off the board. During the regular season, Seattle scored 24 of its 42 goals in the first half, but also earned three wins with goals in the final 15 minutes.
Big game players
These are the games where legends are made. Whether it’s a wonder-strike goal, a last-second clearance or a heroic effort in the face of adversity, someone will emerge from this match with tales being told for years to come. Just who that star of the day is will be determined by the final whistle. Whenever it does happen, though, it will be clear and that moment will carry on in the young MLS histories of the two clubs, just as it has for players from the NASL and the A-League and USL eras.