Three Key Match-ups: vs Portland Timbers

The Sounders will have to focus on three main battles in today's match against arch-rivals Portland Timbers.

The Sounders FC meets the Portland Timbers on Saturday at 5 pm at CenturyLink Field in the fiercest derby in Major League Soccer.

In a rivalry that has been alive since 1975, there have been some incredible duels over the years and 2013 is no different. Here are three matchups to watch for in the clash on NBC Sports.

Osvaldo Alonso vs. Diego Valeri

It’s strength vs. strength as Seattle’s MLS Best XI defensive midfielder goes head-to-head with Portland’s newest attacking option in the middle of the park. The Timbers funnel a lot of their attack through Valeri, but with Alonso shadowing him that may make that strategy a bit more harrowing. Valeri has proven capable though and Alonso will have to be on his game to keep the Argentine quiet.

Eddie Johnson vs. Mikael Silvestre and Andrew Jean-Baptiste

It’s trial by fire for the 20-year-old Jean-Baptiste. He played just five games in his rookie season last year and already has two starts in 2013. His center back partner Silvestre should ease his transition into the starting role, providing the veteran savvy of a player who spent 11 seasons in the English Premier League with Manchester United and Arsenal. Johnson is among the league’s best goal-scorers, though, and will need to be aggressive in the box and with his runs off the ball to find opportunities.

DeAndre Yedlin vs. Darlington Nagbe

It is yet to be seen if Yedlin will get the start against the Timbers, but if he does, he will square off with another Akron product in Nagbe. Yedlin has shown that he is up to the task in making the adjustment to the pro level and he will have a difficult challenge in front of him in Nagbe, who is another dynamic playmaker in the Portland attack. They never played together at Akron, but have certainly crossed paths since Nagbe left in 2011.