For the Portland Timbers to finish off their quest for the Cascadia Cup today, they will need to limit the finishing chances for the dynamic Seattle forward pairing of Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero.
For the Sounders to keep the Cup in play and avenge their June loss to the Timbers, they will have to contain the threats from the flanks, where Sal Zizzo on the right and Franck Songo’o on the left have emerged as driving forces of the Timbers attack.
Certainly, there will be battles all around Jeld-Wen Field during today’s nationally-televised edition of Major League Soccer’s hottest rivalry. But if a winner emerges, chances are it will be delivered by one of the marquee playmakers.
For Portland, the challenge is to quiet Johnson and Montero, who have combined for 24 goals and eight assists (the Timbers have 27 goals total this season).
The Timbers will be without left back Steven Smith, suspended one game for yellow card accumulation. Gavin Wilkinson, the Timbers general manager and interim head coach, said that causing Seattle problems is his first priority when deciding on his startling lineup.
“I think at home we’ve got to look at our best 11,” Wilkinson said. “We’ve got to look at players who can influence the game going forward as well as doing a job defensively.”
Rodney Wallace, Lovel Palmer, Steve Purdy and Ian Hogg are options, Wilkinson said. Wallace and Palmer have played mostly in midfield in limited time this season. Purdy hasn’t played for the Timbers since departing the April 29 loss at Montreal with an injury. Hogg, a 22-year-old New Zealander signed on Aug. 9, has not yet played for the Timbers.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, meanwhile, said that keeping Zizzo and Songo’o in check is important.
“Those guys out wide have been able to isolate themselves and create some things off the dribble,” Schmid said of the Timbers wing players. “We have to make sure we do a good job of one-on-one defending and make sure that we eliminate crosses whenever possible, and not give them a chance to get a lot of free shots at us in terms of running behind us without the ball, or just running at us one-v-one.”