Timbers MatchDay: vs. Sounders

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter



Portland at Seattle

Kickoff: 6 p.m. Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

TV: ESPN (cable Ch. 35/735).

Radio: 750 AM (940 AM Spanish broadcast).

Where they stand: Portland (7-15-9, 30 points) is eighth in the Western Conference; Seattle (13-7-10, 49 points) is fourth in the Western Conference.

All-time series: In MLS, each team has a win and there have been two draws. Three of the four MLS meetings have been in Portland.

This season: On June 24 Portland won 2-1 on the strength of two early goals. On Sept. 15 each team scored a second-half goal in a 1-1 draw.

Storyline: Seattle has clinched a playoff spot. Portland is eliminated from contention. But the Timbers have plenty of motivation, since a win or a draw would clinch the Cascadia Cup for the Timbers and a win would be Portland's first on the road all season.

Crowd control: With a crowd of 66,000 expected — the largest of this MLS regular season — communicating figures to be a challenge on the field. Portland captain Jack Jewsbury said the team spent more time in training with assignments and positioning because adjusting on the fly will be difficult.

"The reality of it is once you get on the field it's going to be very hard to hear one another," said Jewsbury, whose previous experience in front of such a large crowd was an exhibition match against Manchester United at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium. "But we've played 31 games together, so we should know where to be positionally at this point."

Timbers coach Gavin Wilkinson said playing home games at noisy Jeld-Wen Field means the Timbers are used to communicating in loud environments.

"When you play in front of big crowds, the biggest problem is the level of noise, the distraction. We've done that time and time again at Jeld-Wen," Wilkinson said.

Lineup questions: On Thursday, Wilkinson said it was 50-50 whether goalkeeper Donovan Rickets (shoulder) and midfielder Diego Chara (adductor strain) will play on Sunday. Less likely is defender Hanyer Mosquera (hamstring). Also doubtful is midfielder Kalif Alhassan (petellar tendinitis). Wilkinson said players need to be able to go the distance.

"We would like to be able to field the best team available. But that team has to be healthy," Wilkinson said. "We don't want to be making changes early on in the game to solve problems that we could have solved earlier."

Leaders: Goals — Kris Boyd (7) leads Portland, Darlington Nagbe (6) leads among available Timbers; Eddie Johnson (13) and Fredy Montero (12) lead Seattle. Assists — Eric Alexander (6) leads Portland; Mauro Rosales (13) leads Seattle.

Injury/suspension/international impact: Timbers — Out: FW Kris Boyd (adductor strain); DF Ian Hogg (ankle sprain); DF Hanyer Mosquera (hamstring strain); DF Chris Taylor (hip surgery). Doubtful: MF Kalif Alhassan (patellar tendinitis). Probable: MF Diego Chara (adductor strain); GK Donovan Ricketts (shoulder separation). Portland defender Steve Purdy left Thursday to join El Savador in advance of next week's World Cup qualifiers. Sounders — Out: FW Babayele Sodade (knee ACL tear); DF Andrew Duran (ACL surgery). Probable: DF Patrick Ianni (adductor strain); MF Michael Seamon (back pain).

Question of the day: Can Portland's midfield play strong enough to allow the Timbers to build through possession, or will the Timbers be forced to rely on counter-attacks to generate scoring chances against the talented and motivated Sounders?