When the Seattle Sounders beat the Portland Timbers 6-2 at Providence Park two weeks ago, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer made it a point to mention that Seattle’s biggest rivals would be gunning for revenge for the return clash at Lumen Field.
So, will the quest for revenge be enough for the Timbers to pick up a positive road result or will the Sounders keep on rolling? The form since for both teams would suggest the latter.
Scouting the Opposition
Portland’s pride took a real hit with the crushing home loss to the Sounders. Despite an improved performance against Sporting Kansas City following defeat to the Sounders, Gio Savarese’s side showcased their defensive issues again in a 3-1 loss to Austin FC.
Portland have conceded more goals than any other team in the Western Conference and tactical changes with the shape in midfield have not added the defensive stability to stop the team from conceding at an alarming rate.
Aljaz Ivacic made way for the returning Steve Clark in goal after the 6-2 defeat to Seattle, with center back Larrys Mabiala also dropped in favor of Bill Tuiloma. Following the tie at SKC, Portland conceded three in the first 30 minutes at Austin to show that the issues defensively may go beyond just a personnel reshuffle.
Portland managed to create some issues for the Sounders defensively, particularly in the first half at Providence Park, but once Nicolás Lodeiro came on they struggled to find an attacking balance that didn’t leave them open in transition. Portland’s most recent successes against Seattle have come when they have sat back and allowed Brian Schmetzer’s side to have possession and looked for moments to counter. I would expect a similar tactical approach on Sunday.
Since the 6-2 win over the Timbers, Seattle have continued their superb form with excellent wins at both Dallas and Columbus Crew. While neither victory showcased the attacking flair of the win at Providence Park, both demonstrated that this Seattle team can win in so many ways.
From blowing teams away with attacking transition to showing defensive stability and stifling their opponents, this Sounders team has found a perfect balance on both sides of the ball.
The return of Lodeiro has given the squad a lift and means a much stronger bench that allows Schmetzer to make changes that can positively affect the game. Against Portland it was Jimmy Medranda and Lodeiro who came on to change the game and Raúl Ruidíaz came off the bench to net the winner at Dallas. At Columbus it was Will Bruin deservedly notching his first goal of the season as once again a Sounders sub played a huge part in a big away victory.
The interesting tactical choice for Schmetzer will be if he decides to go with an attack-minded side that includes Lodeiro and Fredy Montero, or if he opts for defensive stability with Josh Atencio coming into midfield. Atencio came on and helped stifle Portland at Providence Park after the Sounders had looked vulnerable and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the nod on Sunday.
Going for the Sweep
The Sounders have won the first two match ups of the season and a win on Sunday would see them become the first team to sweep the season series in MLS play.