Fishing Trip: Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders

In a year where little has gone according to plan, a script-busting derby game could be just what the doctor ordered.

By Mike Schwartz July 11, 2014

Saying that “drama, controversy, and goals lit up a Timbers game” begs one simple question: which one do you want to talk about?

Coming into last week’s match with the L.A. Galaxy, Portland found itself in a familiar spot: facing a difficult road opponent with a real chance to win.

Despite having beaten the Galaxy in Portland before, and having won physically in the StubHub Center, albeit against lowly Chivas USA, the Timbers had never beaten Landon, Robbie, Bruce & Co. in their own building.

A frenetic second half saw all four goals, with Marcelo Sarvas’s 65’ opener cancelled out by a Diego Valeri GOTW candidate two minutes later. The in-form Jorge Villafaña, whose strong run and dangerous cross played an integral part in the first Portland goal, scored one for himself merely three minutes later.

An 86’ Rauwshan McKenzie own goal – an unlucky fate for a defender who has been nothing but solid – doomed Portland to another draw.

They remain level on points with L.A., four points behind Vancouver for the fifth and final playoff spot, but having played two more matches than the Whitecaps and four more than L.A.

Wednesday night’s Open Cup defeat in Tukwila was another match full of late drama, swinging emotions, questionable decisions—and ultimately disappointment.  But there is no time to dwell.

On Sunday night, in a match ESPN is hyping World Cup Final watchers to stick around for, the Timbers meet their bitter, fishy rivals once again, this time in the other stadium that isn’t theirs but holds more than Tukwila.

The crowd is expected to be roughly 56,000 people larger than that on Wednesday night.

Diego Charà is unfortunately suspended for this one, picking up an all-too-predictable fifth yellow card in L.A. His absence is just in time for the return of “you-know-who.”

Those who took a vacation from hating Clint Dempsey for the USA’s dramatic, Timbers-esque run in Brazil can now officially get back to work. Ditto DeAndre Yedlin, who impressed as a spark-plug for Jurgen Klinsmann, and looked to have not missed a beat (it must be said that he looked very dangerous) on Wednesday.

Sigi Schmid should also have striker Obafemi Martins available for selection; the Nigerian hitman missed Wednesday night’s Cup Derby with a sore hamstring and has missed three consecutive matches overall.

The Timbers weary back line could use a bit of good luck, and if Martins can’t go, it’s one less potential headache. If he cannot go, Lamar Neagle could deputize, as he so often does, or Schmid could go with former Timber Kenny Cooper, who continued to fulfill his role as “former PTFC fan favorite who comes back to bite us” by scoring the match winner in extra time on Wednesday. 

Nothing, however, cures a backline headache quite like a shiny new signing. And by “shiny”, we mean big, tough, chiseled, tattooed, and best of all, experienced. Liam Ridgewell—the 29-year old, left footed central defender with 12 years of English Premier League experience—is here, in Timbers Green, though having not trained since April he is unlikely to play a role in Sunday's game.

Even so, as the Brains of the Operation, Caleb Porter’s problems won’t be solved simply by plugging in warm bodies. 

Other than Chará’s suspension, Ben Zemanski’s concussion recovery, and Maxi Urruti’s knock, the Timbers are healthy. The former two are a positional like-for-like, which leaves Portland with the likelihood of Cap’n Jack stepping into the defensive midfield alongside Will Johnson. If that is the case, the experienced Club Captain knows the opposition and Cascadia Cup matches very well.

While the prospect of a major tactical overhaul is unlikely, a fresh and healthy Rodney Wallace would be a solid foil for the darting Yedlin. Inevitably, the fish will attack the flanks and send dangerous crosses in towards their compliment of strikers, so Caleb Porter could stand to utilize one of his roster’s strength: speed.

In a year where little has gone according to plan, the script-busting nature of derby games could be just what the doctor ordered. The Timbers remain in search of a season-defining win, and in spite of everything, the playoffs are by no means out of reach. Beating the arch enemy in front of their own customers would be a massive confidence boost ahead of a crucial showdown with Colorado at home next weekend.

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