The Seattle Sounders take on bitter rivals the Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Sunday (12 p.m. PT; ABC, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM) in their first meeting of the 2021 Major League Soccer season. Here are three matchups to watch:
Will Bruin vs. Larrys Mabiala
Bruin has yet to score through three matches this season, but he’s having a major impact in other areas. He has two assists — that’s the most already for him since 2018 — and is nicely complementing the buildup play in the Sounders’ 3-5-2 formation. He’ll have a strong matchup with Portland defender Mabiala, who is just as big and bruising as Bruin at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. How well Bruin can drag him out of position and pick out passes in behind, like he did for Brad Smith last week, will be key to unlocking this Timbers defense.
Cristian Roldan vs. Eryk Williamson
Roldan has been fantastic to start the season, operating as a nominal No. 10 but more of a central winger in the stead of Nicolás Lodeiro, who missed the opening two weeks of the season to injury. Roldan has been the catalyst to so many of the Sounders’ eight goals through three matches. His ability to find space and overload, especially on the righthand side with his brother, Alex, will help open more space on the back line for Bruin and Raúl Ruidíaz.
Nouhou vs. Yimmi Chará
Talk about pace. Nouhou and Chará are two of the fastest players in the league, and the Timbers’ attacking right (Sounders defensive left) should be a track meet all afternoon. Nouhou has been a standout playing in a new left center back position that has seen him cover an immense amount of ground while acting as a safety net for Smith, who’s been bombing up the left flank to the tune of two goals and an assist so far. If Nouhou can keep Chará at bay, and therefore allow Smith to stay high and in dangerous attacking areas, the Sounders should see similar success to what has gotten them atop the Supporters’ Shield standings entering the weekend.