Three Key Match-Ups: at Portland Timbers

Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers

MLS Regular Season
Sunday, August 24; 2 pm PT; Providence Park
TV/Radio: ESPN2; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

For the fourth time this season and third time in MLS play, Sounders FC will face Cascadia-rival Portland Timbers. Sunday's meeting at Providence Park offers Seattle a chance to go unbeaten in four matches against Portland this year after posting a 2-0-1 record in the first three matches, including a 3-1 extra time win in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. Here are three matchups to watch in the nationally televised contest on ESPN2.

Seattle’s central midfielders vs. Portland’s central midfielders
When Seattle and Portland meet, the midfield is often a demolition derby. Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda handle the defensive midfield duties for Sounders FC while Will Johnson and Diego Chara patrol the same area for the Timbers. All four are incredibly active and cover a lot of ground, making for frequent collisions and a propensity for the opposition to push the action wide. Alonso and Johnson may have been All-Star teammates earlier this month at Providence Park, but that there is no love lost between the two midfield bulldogs.

Clint Dempsey vs. Liam Ridgewell
The two Premier League veterans met five times in England, with Dempsey going 2-1-2 with one goal playing for Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur against Ridgewell's Birmingham City and West Brom sides. This will be their first meeting in MLS after Ridgewell made his Timbers debut on July 18. Portland has since gone 3-1-1 with the Englishman at center back. Meanwhile, Dempsey has four goals in two matches against the Timbers this season, scoring a hat trick in his last regular season match at Providence Park back in April in a 4-4 draw.

Seattle Fitness vs. Portland Fitness
Both Seattle and Portland have scored 21 of their 39 goals in the final 30 minutes, a testament to the sports science programs for the rival clubs. Dave Tenney and Nick Milonas are the heads of those programs in Seattle and Portland, respectively, and have done masterful jobs of keeping their teams fresh late in matches. The difference has come on the defensive side, where Seattle has allowed five goals in the final 30 minutes while the Timbers have let in 17. And if the last match at Providence Park is any indication, fans should stay until the final whistle, regardless of the score after the hour-mark.