Timbers set for another Sounders test
Coming off their biggest offensive output in club history, the Portland Timbers play their biggest rival at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Providence Park — an opportunity for Portland, currently fifth, to perhaps climb to the top of the tight Western Conference standings.
Seattle is 6-2-3 sits atop the conference with 21 points. Portland is 5-4-3, tied for fourth in a tightly-packed table with 18 points.
Wednesday's match is the third of four between the rivals in the 2020 regular season. It will be televised on KPDX.
The Timbers put a 6-1 thumping on the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, Sept. 19, the second visit to Earthquakes Stadium in 72 hours. Despite training indoors for all but one day last week, and despite needing to fly to and from San Jose twice in three days, Portland scored more goals than it had before in its 10 seasons in MLS.
That result was a combination of the Timbers exploiting the Earthquakes' unique man-to-man marking and of Portland finishing chances well. Diego Valeri, who sat out the 1-1 draw at San Jose three days earlier, was especially effective in exploiting the Quakes — and led the onslaught with two goals and an assist.
Coach Giovanni Savarese pointed this week to the significance of resting players and pointed to Valeri's energetic performance on Sunday as a prime example.
Sunday's match at San Jose also was notable for the poise of Aljaz Ivacic in his debut in goal for the Timbers — his three saves came on close-range shots in rapid succession. Another of the many encouraging performances was that of Centennial High graduate Marco Farfan, a natural left back who played right back in a MLS match for the first time.
Granted, San Jose is struggling and teams are having fun against the Quakes, who gave up seven goals in a recent loss at Seattle. But, considering the challenges facing the Timbers, a 6-1 win has to feel awfully nice.
Now it's time for another Timbers-Sounders tussle — again without the fans who make the rivalry so special.
Savarese said this week that Portland's players are "recovering faster than I anticipated" after the Saturday match at San Jose.
Centerback Larrys Mabiala, who suffered a thigh injury in the Sept. 6 win at Seattle, is healthy and available. Right back Chris Duvall (right leg) remains out.
Portland will be trying to buck a recent trend that has seen the road team win the last six regular-season matches in the rivalry.
In fact, the Timbers have struggled at Providence Park dating back to last season. In 2020, Portland is 1-3-1 at home, including two matches in March before COVID-19 shut down the season.
Savarese noted that even with fans in the stands last season, his team struggled to get results after Providence Park reopened. He said his team must have a stronger mentality about protecting the home field — even without fans in the stands.
"Our fans are unique. Our fans are the engine of this team," Savarese said, adding that without them "we have to adapt, have a strong mentality."
The Timbers will attempt to slow a Seattle surge. The Sounders are 4-1-1 since the MLS season restart and have outscored six opponents 19-6 — a run that started with a 3-0 win at Providence Park.
Portland did win, 2-1, two weeks later at Seattle, but the home loss still stings.
"They took a little bit of pride out of us after a successful summer and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I know the rest of our teammates," forward Jeremy Ebobisse said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.