Three Key Match-Ups: at Portland Timbers

Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers

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

It’s the first match of the 2014 Cascadia Cup as Sounders FC travels down I-5 to meet the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.

Here are three matchups to watch out for as the two long-standing rivals square off.

Obafemi Martins vs. Norberto Paparatto
Last week against the Columbus Crew, Seattle was able to take advantage of the speed of its forwards against the Columbus Crew and this week should be no different against Portland. Paparatto is far from fleet of foot, as has been evident in each of his three starts. If he doesn’t start, Seattle should still have an advantage in that department against either Pa Modou Kah or Mamadou Danso.

If Martins is able to get behind the center backs either in the middle or in the channel inside of Jack Jewsbury on Portland’s right side, it will surely mean scoring chances for the Sounders.

Diego Valeri and Will Johnson vs. Osvaldo Alonso
It will be a busy afternoon for Alonso as Valeri and Johnson are two hardworking players in the middle of the park who are both starving for success early in this season. Both players earned MLS Best XI honors last year and both are looking for their first points of 2014. Valeri finished the 2013 season with 10 goals and 13 assists, both tops for the Timbers, while Johnson had nine goals and five assists.

Alonso will need to slow down one of those two, while the responsibilities of halting the other will likely fall to Gonzalo Pineda, depending on the formation
deployed by Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid.

Clint Dempsey vs. Diego Chara
Dempsey is coming off of a two-match suspension and will be primed to get back on the field for Seattle, although he played 90 minutes on Wednesday night in a 2-2 draw for the U.S. National Team against Mexico. His opposition on Saturday will be Chara and Dempsey will undoubtedly have memories of their first meeting in Portland when Chara’s harsh tackle from behind left Dempsey to play the remainder of the game with a shoulder injury. Dempsey has either scored (2) or assisted (1) in each of his last three MLS regular season matches and will have Chara to contend with if he hopes to continue that streak.