Sounders FC is back in the Pacific Northwest but taking a short trip down I-5 for Sunday's Cascadia match-up with the Portland Timbers. The clash wraps up MLS' Rivalry Week and marks the second time this month that the two teams meet. Broadcaster and former Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann chimes in with his thoughts on the match in this week's Off-Camera Observations.
On bouncing back against Portland:
After losing two games, you know the team is disappointed because they want to win. Sometimes having a rivalry game just what you need to really ramp up. The team is missing a few key guys due to injuries but everyone is working to get ready.
A rivalry game like this is something the players all look forward to and they might have enough to power through it.
On the rivalry between the teams:
Historically, the rivalry between Seattle and Portland is the best there is in MLS. There's no question. Any time you have one of these games, players are dying to prove themselves. For the Timbers, they are coming back home after a tough loss. They might see the Sounders as a team that's missing a bunch of key players and see it as a chance. Sigi [Schmid] keeps talking about a chance for guys to step up and the depth of the team. This is a great chance to test both of those things now that the team is back at home and preparing before the short trip to Portland.
On Stefan Frei's performance this season:
Stefan has been playing very well this season. He's made tons of improvements. I can see small changes he's made to become better. I think the biggest thing is how well he's working with the back four defensive players and how well they're communicating with him. He has a high number of shutouts, he's got a low goals-against total and he continues to lead MLS in saves. He's making really good saves but he's working so well with the defense. They have a lot of confidence in him as a goalkeeper and are giving him shots they know he can stop.
With the way Stefan has been playing, you can see his confidence. He's making key saves and he has learned how to best control the defense, even with changes in the back. All these things add up to a solid defense.