Timbers MatchDay: at Sounders (playoffs, leg 1)

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders

Kickoff: 7 p.m. today at CenturyLink Field.

TV/radio: NBCSN (Cable Ch. 32/732) / AM 750.

Western Conference semifinal playoff: This is the first of a two-game series. The second game is Thursday in Portland. The team that scores the most goals in the two games wins. If they have scored the same amount at the end of 90 minutes on Thursday, a 30-minute mini-game will be played. If the total remains tied, a penalty-kick tiebreaker will determine who advances.

Moving on: The winner of this series advances to the Western Conference finals and will play the first leg of that two-match series on Nov. 9 or 10, meaning two days at most between matches. Then there is a two-week international break between the two conference championship matches.

Head to head: In three regular-season matches this season between the rivals, each won once by a 1-0 score and there was one 1-1 draw.

How they got here: Portland finished with the best record in the Western Conference. Seattle finished fourth and defeated Colorado 2-0 on Wednesday in a knockout match.

Playoff history: The Timbers are in the MLS playoffs for the first time. The Sounders have made the conference semifinals in each of their five MLS seasons. Last season was the first time they won a playoff series.

More playoff history: The first playoff in Timbers history, a 1975 North American Soccer League quarterfinal, was a 2-1 overtime win over Seattle at Civic Stadium (now Jeld-Wen Field). In 2004 and 2005, the Sounders and Timbers met in two-leg playoffs as second division clubs, with Seattle winning both of those.

Timbers story: The top team in the Western Conference, the Timbers enter their first MLS playoff on a run of success. They were unbeaten in their final eight regular-season games (five wins, three draws), including a 5-0 win at Chivas USA last weekend. The Timbers have not been scored upon in 281 minutes. Diego Valeri, the team leader with 10 goals and 13 assists, is expected to play. He has been nursing an adductor strain for weeks, but played the first half and scored two goals against Chivas. Forward Maximiliano Urruti (hamstring) is improving but might not be available. Jose Valencia has started the last two games, and Ryan Johnson and Frederic Piquonne are also healthy, giving Caleb Porter options at striker. The Timbers five losses was the least in the league during the regular season. Portland scored 54 goals in the regular season, third most in the league. Bolstered by five goals last week, Portland scored 25 goals in 17 road games.

Seattle story: Backup goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, a veteran who played against the Timbers in Portland will play in place of Michael Gspurning, who is suspended for Saturday’s match. The status of right back DeAndre Yedlin (ankle) and forward Obafeni Martins (groin strain) isn’t expected to be known until lineups are announced. The form of Clint Dempsey, the presence of Eddie Johnson, and the comfort of Adam Moffat are reasons for optimism. Dempsey scored his first goal as a Sounder in their draw with L.A. and looked very comfortable in his floating midfield role on Wednesday.

“I think Clint’s getting fitter all the time,” Coach Sigi Schmid said. “He needed to learn our team, had some injuries and was gone with the national team. I think the guys understand Clint better. I think Clint understands the guys better.”

Johnson, who has both Sounders goals against Portland this season and leads Seattle with 10, missed the October match in Portland that the Timbers won 1-0. Moffat, a member of the expansion Timbers in 2011 before a midseason trade to Houston, has experienced playoff success with Columbus and Houston. He came to Seattle from Houston at the trade deadline.