Timbers MatchDay: vs. Sounders

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter



Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers

Kickoff: 6 p.m. today at Jeld-Wen Field.

TV/radio: ESPN (Cable Ch. 35/735) / AM 750.

Tickets:www.portlandtimbers.com; 503-553-5555. The game is sold out.

Where they stand: Seattle can clinch a playoff spot with a win. Portland has 12 wins, 14 ties and five losses (50 points) and is third in the Western Conference. Seattle (15-6-10, 51 points) is second. With three matches left including today's, the Timbers are three points ahead of sixth-place San Jose, which has two matches left. The top five teams make the playoffs.

Head to head: Portland has a tie and a loss this season against Seattle. The teams played to a 1-1 draw in March and the Sounders won 1-0 on Aug. 25. Both matches were at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. All time in MLS, the Sounders lead the series 3-1 with three ties.

Cascadia Cup: Seattle needs a win over Portland to win the 2013 Cascadia Cup, the supporters trophy for the best head-to-head results from matches among Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. If Portland wins or ties this match, Vancouver wins the trophy. The Timbers, who won the Cascadia Cup last season, have been eliminated.

International obligations: Portland will be without Ryan Johnson, Alvas Powell (Jamaica) and Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica) for World Cup qualifiers. Seattle will be without midfielder Brad Evans who is with the U.S. national team. Forward Eddie Johnson returned from the national team with a groin injury and is not expected to play against Portland.

Timbers story: Portland is closing in on its first playoff berth. The Timbers have been dominant at Jeld-Wen Field this season, losing just once in their first 15 home matches (10-1-4). The Timbers have won three consecutive home matches. The only loss was to Montreal in the second game of the season. The health of Diego Valeri — who has been nursing an adductor strain for six weeks and has not played a full match since Portland's loss at Seattle on Aug. 25 — is a concern. Valeri's 12 assists still lead MLS, and he is one of four Timbers with at least eight goals. Also, Darlington Nagbe, he of the team-leading nine goals, limped off the field late in Sunday's draw at Vancouver. He, along with Frederique Piquionne and Valeri are listed as questionable.

Seattle story: Who saw this coming? In their last two games, the Sounders were outscored 9-2 in losses to Colorado and Vancouver. As a result, Seattle is just another team in the crowd atop the Western Conference instead of commanding leader in the Supporter's Shield race. The nine goals allowed in the last two games equals the total scored against Seattle in its previous 12 matches. As a result, coach Sigi Schmidt told the Seattle Times that he doesn't know if Michael Gspurning (27 starts) or veteran Marcus Hahnemann will start in goal against Portland. Clint Dempsey is still seeking his first Sounders goal. Sidelined for much of September with a hamstring injury, Dempsey came on in the second half of Wednesday's match. It was only his sixth appearance since joining the Sounders on Aug. 3. Also making his return on Wednesday was Steve Zakuani, who played the final 15 minutes against Vancouver. It was his first appearance since sports hernia surgery in April. Defender Zach Scott is suspended (card accumulation).