Sounders look for redemption in Portland against old rivals the Timbers

Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers

MLS Regular Season
Saturday, April 5; 12 pm PT; Providence Park, Portland
TV/Radio: NBC Sports; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

Once all the smoke settles and the hype has worn off, Sounders FC will meet the Portland Timbers on Saturday at Providence Park and none of it will matter when the match kicks off.

That is the approach for Seattle as it looks to bounce back from a 2-1 defeat against the Columbus Crew last week. While the intensity may pick up in Portland, Sounders FC is trying to approach the game with the same focused mentality as any other match.

“It’s huge. It’s not the result we wanted last week, but for us, home or away, it doesn’t really matter. We want to get the result either way,” Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “I think we’ve had a decent week of practice. We just have to go out with confidence like we did against Montreal and take the game to them and make them earn their home advantage.”

Seattle will have Clint Dempsey available again for the first time since the second match of the season, as the star forward was suspended two matches following a 2-1 loss to Toronto FC. Integrating him back into the team will be important, particularly after he missed some training sessions this week to play with the U.S. National Team in a 2-2 draw with Mexico on Wednesday in Arizona.

Thus far, he has mixed well with his teammates despite an offseason loan and international absences. In just 123 minutes, he has shown a knack for connecting with Obafemi Martins and has one goal and one assist already to his credit.

The connection with Martins will take Seattle far, though, particularly against a team that possesses the ball as well as the Timbers.

“They’ve looked for each other. If anything, they’ve looked for each other too much. But they’re certainly looking to find each other and combine off each other,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “They definitely have a respect for each other.”

On the other side of the field, the Timbers will look to slow Seattle’s dynamic attacking duo with their own destructive pair of holding midfielders in Diego Chara and Will Johnson. Chara has been among the better defensive midfielders in the league since coming to the Timbers in 2011 and Johnson earned MLS Best XI honors last year for his play in the midfield.

That pair is the type that teams game plan around and create opportunities for the Timbers in the attack through Diego Valeri, Gaston Fernandez and Darlington Nagbe, though Nagbe is questionable for Saturday’s match with a leg contusion.

“Chara and Will Johnson cover as much ground as any two midfielders in the league. Chara is an aggressive guy defensively as well. Will Johnson has a pretty good eye for opening the game up, but he’s also very aggressive,” Schmid said. “So they have two aggressive, hard-working deeper midfielders and that allows Valeri and now Fernandez to make their decisions and they don’t have to defend so much. It’s a good combination of different talents.”

In addition to Dempsey, Seattle will also have DeAndre Yedlin available after the defender played 19 minutes for the U.S. National Team on Wednesday. That short stint won’t keep Yedlin from being ready to face Portland on Saturday, but there’s not much that can keep the Seattle native off the field against the Timbers.

“Even if I played 90 (on Wednesday), I’d be ready for 90,” Yedlin smiled. “I wouldn’t miss this game for the world.”