Sounders, Timbers set to renew rivalry

Northwest teams enter matchup on winless streaks

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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The way Sigi Schmid sees it, the air of desperation around both the Portland Timbers and his Seattle Sounders figures to add a bit of bite to the soccer rivalry that renews on Sunday afternoon at Jeld-Wen Field.

The Timbers (3-6-4) haven't won a match in two months and sit eighth among nine teams in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer. After a fast start, the fourth-place Sounders (7-4-4) are now winless in six games coming off a contentious 1-1 draw on Wednesday with Sporting Kansas City.

"The season hasn't gone as well as I'm sure (the Timbers) would've hoped at this point, and for us right now the games aren't going as we would've hoped, so I think it's two teams that are very eager to get a good result," Schmid said.

When assessing the Timbers, Schmid named three players who have his attention.

"They're a team with quality players. Kris Boyd is a quality goal-scorer. He's scored goals for a number of years in good leagues and he's finding his footing right now in our league, but he's been dangerous pretty consistently in games," Schmid said.

"Darlington Nagbe continues to improve for sure. They've added Danny Mwanga, so that gives them a little bit more of a more powerful look up front because he's also a good-sized forward — a little bit different from when they had Perlaza."

Mwanga played his first game as a Timber in last Sunday's 1-0 loss at Los Angeles. He was acquired in a trade that sent Jorge Perlaza to Philadelphia.

For Seattle, Sunday's showdown comes in the middle of a stretch of three games in less than a week. The Sounders play San Jose in San Francisco on Tuesday in a U.S. Open Cup match, but Schmid said that won't factor into Sunday's lineup.

"We're going to look at who's healthy, who's able to go, who's prepared to go," Schmid said. "Then after that (Portland) game we'll look at the next one. We sort of look at them as independent things."

Injuries and suspensions — midfielder Alvaro Fernandez is suspended for Sunday's game for a red card on Wednesday — have forced Schmid to use 15 different starting lineups in as many MLS matches this season.

Steve Zakuani, out since April of last year with a broken leg, suited up for the first time on Wednesday but did not enter the game.

Schmid said he didn't know if Zakuani will make the trip to Portland, explaining that "each game is a separate (lineup) decision." Recent struggles aside, Sunday's match will be special, Schmid said.

"It doesn't matter if you're on a winning streak, a losing streak, if you're doing well, not doing well," Schmid said. "The game just has its own value and it's a result that's independent of how you're doing in your other games just because of the intensity of the rivalry and the importance that it has to our supporters."