The Seattle Sounders will host the Portland Timbers on Saturday (12 p.m. PT; FOX, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM) in their first 2017 match against their Cascadia rivals. Here are three matchups to watch:
Joevin Jones vs. Sebastian Blanco
Jones had another great game against Real Salt Lake last week, constantly getting forward into the attack and helping the Sounders keep a clean sheet. He will get his first look at Timbers new Designated Player Blanco, a skilled Argentine who pulls the strings from out wide with Diego Valeri working beneath Fanendo Adi. Jones loves to push forward, which means Blanco will either have to be more careful with his attacking runs or track back hard defensively to help right back Alvas Powell slow down Jones.
Nicolas Lodeiro vs. David Guzman/Amobi Okugo
Hardnosed defensive midfielder Diego Chara is suspended, which means Lodeiro will likely have more room to operate in the attacking third against a possession-based midfielder in Guzman and Okugo, who has played fewer than 100 total minutes this season. Jordan Morris was terrific making runs behind RSL’s back line last week, and if Lodeiro enjoys slightly more of the ball on Saturday, expect him to pick out Morris early and often.
Jordan Morris vs. Liam Ridgewell/Roy Miller
Speaking of Morris, he should have success running into channels in between Portland’s back line, which has allowed 11 goals in its last five games. Portland’s heart is in its attack, so Seattle should once again create myriad opportunities at home. The Sounders could only convert once against RSL and came with away with a victory, but they’ll likely need more than that against the Timbers. Look for Morris to snap his five-game scoreless streak on Saturday.