The Seattle Sounders host the Portland Timbers on Sunday (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM, TICKETS) in Week 20 MLS action. Here are three matchups to watch, presented by Toyota.
Raúl Ruidíaz vs. Larrys Mabiala
Ruidíaz was built for rivalry matches.
On Sunday, he’ll get the opportunity to extend his ridiculous run of form against the Timbers, as the Peruvian striker has three goals in his last three games against Portland across the MLS regular season and playoffs. Despite missing nine games this season through injury and international duty, Ruidíaz has already racked up seven goals and one assist in 11 appearances.
An imposing center back who likes to defend on the front foot, Mabiala relies on his reading of the game to step into midfield and snuff out danger. In Seattle’s 2-1 win over Atlanta, Ruidíaz had a season-high 54 touches, a figure that will likely drop on Sunday against Mabiala. However, the Timbers defender has only blocked one shot in his last four starts across all competitions. If Seattle’s striker can receive service in the box, Mabiala will be unable to stop his lethal finishing.
Kim Kee-hee vs. Brian Fernández
The last time Seattle squared off against Portland, the Sounders fell 2-1 in the U.S. Open Cup at Cheney Stadium. Even though the Sounders created the better chances and controlled possession, the Timbers escaped with the victory, courtesy of a Fernández brace.
Portland’s Argentine hitman will find goalscoring chances more difficult to come by on Sunday, though, as he’ll go toe-to-toe with Kim for the first time. The South Korean center back helped keep one of the league’s other top strikers, Josef Martínez, relatively quiet in Seattle’s win last weekend. An athletic and intelligent defender, Kim will need to track Fernández when he drops into midfield, thus denying Portland their focal point on counterattacks.
Nicolás Lodeiro vs. Diego Chara
Lodeiro loves playing against the Timbers. In nine matches against Seattle’s bitter rival, the Sounders midfield maestro has compiled one goal and six assists. Central playmakers tend to struggle against Portland, as Chara’s lockdown defending and ability to cover vast swaths of ground makes it nearly impossible to pull the strings in midfield. But in Lodeiro, who dictates tempo and covers every blade of grass on the pitch, he’s found his match.
Sunday’s duel could come down to which player is better rested. Lodeiro didn’t feature in Seattle’s midweek friendly against Borussia Dortmund. Chara, on the other hand, played 180 minutes across Portland’s 2-2 draw with the Rapids on Saturday and 1-1 draw with Orlando City on Thursday. The 33-year-old Colombian is still near the peak of his powers, but tracking a player with Lodeiro’s engine in your third game in eight days is a tall order.