The Seattle Sounders are visiting the Portland Timbers on Friday (7:25 p.m. PT; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, 93.3 KJR FM, El Rey 1360AM) in a rivalry match with huge playoff implications. Here are three matchups to watch:
Jordan Morris vs. Larrys Mabiala
Morris looked lively as a true second striker in the Sounders’ 3-5-2 formation they employed against the LA Galaxy last week. Expect that to continue as his pace and threats of runs over the top opens space for Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolás Lodeiro behind him. And if Morris does get through on goal, the soon-to-be 35-year-old Mabiala — anyone really — will have a hard time keeping up with him.
Danny Leyva vs. Sebastián Blanco
On his day, Blanco is one of the best players in MLS. The veteran Argentine has six goals and eight assists in 25 matches (just 15 starts) this season and is still the catalyst in this Timbers attack, especially in transition. Leyva has stepped up admirably of late, and he’ll need to be up to par again on Friday without Cristian Roldan, who recently underwent groin surgery. The 19-year-old Leyva has more defensive duties than his central midfield running mate Albert Rusnák and will be largely responsible for axing any counterattack opportunities before they start.
Alex Roldan vs. Santiago Moreno
There is an intriguing matchup down the Sounders’ righthand flank on Friday, as Roldan, who will operate as a wingback in the 3-5-2, plays a cat-and-mouse game with left winger Moreno. Roldan is excellent in the attacking third and loves to push into space to create overlaps. The Timbers’ Colombian U-22 Initiative signing has tons of pace and enters with five goals and seven assists on the season. Whomever can control that side of the pitch will put his team in a prime position to grab a vital three points.