It wasn’t so long ago that the Portland Timbers were the hottest team in MLS, with a 15-match unbeaten streak.
But with three straight defeats, the Timbers have ceded that mantle to the rival Seattle Sounders, winners of a franchise-record six in a row and unbeaten in nine straight.
The league’s Rivalry Week concludes Sunday night when the Timbers (10-6-7, 37 points) play host to the Sounders (10-9-5, 35 points) at Providence Park.
“Now we’re heading to play this match, which is against our rival, which I think it comes at a perfect time,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “It comes, I think, at a moment which we need this game for us to play.”
The Timbers are coming off a 3-0 loss last weekend at Sporting Kansas City. They’ve been outscored 9-2 during their three-game skid.
The Sounders, meanwhile, coasted to a 5-0 victory last weekend at home against a depleted Los Angeles Galaxy squad. Seattle has outscored its opponents 18-5 over the past nine games.
Seattle could move past Portland and into playoff position in the Western Conference with a victory. The Timbers entered the weekend holding the sixth and final playoff spot in the conference.
“I have a lot of confidence this team can do a lot of damage. They’ve shown that they’ve come together,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I think from Day 1 I’ve always said the spirit of this group, them not giving up, them fighting through adversity has always been there. Now that we’ve got everybody back, now that we’re collecting points, that becomes a dangerous team to face, a team that’s confident, a team that’s extremely talented. Hopefully we can keep this going, hopefully we don’t get overconfident and see if we can’t string together more points and end up as high as we can in the standings and we’ll go from there.”
Midfielder Diego Valeri, the reigning league MVP, tops the Timbers with nine goals. Will Bruin and Nicolas Lodeiro share the Sounders’ lead with six apiece.
Defender Liam Ridgewell (lower left leg injury) is questionable for the Timbers, while the Sounders listed forward Clint Dempsey (lower back pain), midfielder Handwalla Bwana (right midfoot sprain) and defender Brad Smith (left adductor tightness) as questionable.
The Sounders hold a 9-7-6 edge in the MLS series (the rivalry dates back to 1975 in the old North American Soccer League), though the Timbers are undefeated in their past four (2-0-2) against Seattle and have won both previous meetings this season.
—Field Level Media