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Timbers need win over rival or risk falling out of playoff contention

Sounders haven’t lost since Schmetzer took over as coach

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter
Published: August 27, 2016, 3:51pm

A month ago, the Seattle Sounders were spiraling toward the club’s first playoff miss.

Now it is the Portland Timbers whose season has swerved into risky territory.

Should Seattle win Sunday’s match at Providence Park, the Sounders will move ahead of the Timbers while still having one more match to play than Portland. San Jose also entered the weekend just below the playoff threshold.

The Sounders momentum took a potential hit on Friday with news that Clint Dempsey will not play Sunday as he undergoes tests for an irregular heartbeat. Dempsey also missed the Timbers’ 3-1 win over Seattle in July — that time he was suspended.

The Timbers, who have endured their share of absences this season, will focus on protecting their home turf after losing a week ago at Seattle.

Including this match, the Timbers have four regular-season home matches remaining. Winning all of those would likely at least keep Portland in control of its playoff destiny for the rest of the season. A loss, coach Caleb Porter noted, and his team would likely need results to fall their way to earn a playoff spot.

Seattle is unbeaten (three wins, two draws) since Brian Schmetzer was promoted to interim head coach upon the dismissal of Sigi Schmid. The latest of those came on Wednesday in Houston when Nicolas Lodeiro scored in the final seconds of stoppage time for a 1-1 draw.

Portland did not have a midweek game.

Timbers striker Fanendo Adi should also be fresh. He was benched for most of Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Seattle, reportedly for disciplinary reasons after missing the team plane to Seattle.

Without naming Adi or the transgression, Porter this week said, “I’m confident there will be no issues from that and we’ll move on from that.”

Portland might also have a bit more depth on the bench as winger Darren Mattocks, midfielder Ben Zemanski and fullback Zarek Valentin are expected to be fit for consideration.

Mattocks might be the most likely from that recently injured trio to be called upon off the bench if the Timbers need an offensive spark.

Adi (12 goals) and Diego Valeri (10) have accounted for nearly 60 percent of the Timbers goals this season, and Porter said this week that production from the wing players will be needed in the push for the playoffs.

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Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter