The rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers goes back nearly 40 years and stretches over six leagues. Truth be told, Saturday's game does not shape as one of the more particularly notable meetings.
Ah, but even the most mundane meeting between these two teams is worth watching. Both teams are looking for their first league wins of the season, although the Sounders did snap out of their early season stuppor with three second-half goals against Tigres UANL.
Giving the rivalry a new wrinkle is the involvement of new Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, who came to MLS from Akron.
The Sounders are still a ways off from being at full strength. Midfielder Brad Evans has been ruled out, Shalrie Joseph has yet to make his debut, Adam Johansson hasn't played this year and Mauro Rosales also picked up on a knock on Tuesday. This is a deep enough team to overcome those absences, but those are some potentially important pieces. Luckily, it appears as if Obafemi Martins will be available after signing with the club, albeit likely off the bench.
The Timbers, meanwhile, come in looking much better on offense but very much a work-in-progress on defense. Their four goals scored is tied for the most in the league, but their five goals allowed is also tied for the highest in the league.
Projected lineups (left to right)
Portland Timbers (4-2-3-1): Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Mikael Silvestre, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Ryan Miller; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson, Kalif Alhassan.
Darlington Nagbe vs. DeAndre Yedlin: Nagbe left Akron the year before Yedlin enrolled, but they know each other well enough. Nagbe is one of the most talented players in the league and is starting to show signs that he's harnessing his abilities. As good as Yedlin has looked in his first few games, he hasn't matched up with anyone like Nagbe.
Osvaldo Alonso vs. Diego Valeri: There's no player in the league who's better at neutralizing an opponent than Alonso. The question is whether or not he'll be overwhelmed by the numbers game and be forced to let Valeri roam. That could spell trouble.
Eddie Johnson vs. Andrew Jean-Baptiste: Johnson has had no shortage of chances in his first few games, but finally got his first goal of the season when he scored the game-winner vs. Tigres. If he starts finishes those chances, and Baptiste continues to overly rely on his athleticism, it could be a big day for the Sounders.
The Sounders have to be feeling good about themselves after their elimination of Tigres and have not lost a competitive match at home against the Timbers since 2005. Since the Sounders moved to MLS, they own a 4-1-2 advantage over their southern rivals.
The Timbers seem to be closing that gap, but they don't seem quite ready to win in Seattle. The Sounders will win 3-1.