The Seattle Sounders visit the Portland Timbers on Friday (7:00 p.m. PT; ESPN, JOEtv, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360AM) in Week 25 MLS action. Here are three matchups to watch, presented by Toyota.
Raúl Ruidíaz vs. Brian Fernández
With Ruidíaz representing the Sounders and Fernández leading the Timbers, the Sounders-Timbers rivalry, which is unparalleled in the American game, will feature two of the league’s top strikers for years to come.
All three goals in Seattle’s 2-1 loss to Portland last month at CenturyLink Field were scored by each team’s respective No. 9’s. Although it’s a small sample size, the South American strikers clearly thrive in the fiery confines of the Cascadia derby, as they’ve combined for eight goals from six matches across all competitions. Ruidíaz and Fernández won’t actually go toe-to-toe on Friday, but whichever player is more productive will likely determine the result.
Nicolás Lodeiro vs. Diego Chara
In another bit of symmetry between the two bitter rivals, Lodeiro and and Chara are the heartbeat and midfield fulcrums for Seattle and Portland, respectively. Both players cover vast swaths of ground, playing with an intensity that spurs on players around them. Moreover, both Seattle and Portland tend to struggle in the absence of their talismanic midfielders.
Most known for his defensive prowess, Chara is integral to Portland’s transition offense, driving the ball forward and releasing the ball to midfield runners Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco. While Lodeiro is best recognized for his attacking contributions, he’s shown an aptitude for counter-pressing and regaining possession quickly. The Uruguayan No. 10 will need to dominate Chara on both sides of the ball in order for Seattle to dictate the tempo at Providence Park.
Jordan Morris vs. Jorge Villafaña
A striker in a two-forward or single-forward setup for most of his career, Morris has re-shaped his game in 2019 as he’s embraced life as a winger. Yes, he’s developed his crossing – both clipped balls to the back post and low-driven crosses in the danger-zone behind the opponent’s center backs – but his defensive contributions have been the most impressive aspect of his wide play.
A technical attacking outside back with international pedigree, Villafaña will look to get forward on the overlap if Portland controls possession at home. Morris, who has seven goals and four assists from just over 1,500 minutes this season, will need to strike a balance between shutting down Villafaña and utilizing his blistering pace to exploit the space vacated by Portland’s left back in transition.