Seattle Week Heightens Pressure on Timbers

Sounders come to town as Portland seeks first win of 2014 season
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, April 04, 2014

Green Logs - a column on the Portland Timbers & the Portland soccer scene

For all of the controversy of the past week, all that happened in the FC Dallas match, the suspensions and injuries, there is one thing that makes this week different than any other for the Portland Timbers.

It’s Seattle Week. The Cascadia Cup is back in play, and the match on national TV, as well.

For the 11th season, the Cup will be at stake between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver (it was contested between only Portland and Vancouver in 2009-10, before they joined Seattle in MLS). In the three MLS seasons that the Cup has been contested, each club has won it once, with the Whitecaps being the current holders.

It was during the Cup matches last season where the Timbers were in the odd role of spoiler at the end of the season. It was their 1-0 win over the Sounders in the final Cup match of the season, on Oct. 13, that allowed Vancouver to claim the Cup from Portland and ensure Seattle didn’t get it (though the Whitecaps’ 4-1 win in Seattle 4 days earlier put Vancouver in that position).

Of course, Saturday will also be the first time since last year’s playoffs that the Timbers and Sounders have met (not counting preseason). Those 2 matches in November were seen as a possible power shift in the rivalry, as the Timbers won both legs of the series.

However, it might be Seattle that’s on better footing right now, even with the last-minute loss to Columbus in CenturyLink Field last Saturday. The only players who will be missing for the Sounders are Brad Evans (injury) and Djimi Traore (red card suspension). Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin might also see limited time, depending on how long they play for the US Men’s National Team against Mexico on Wednesday night.

The Timbers go into Seattle Week with a lot of questions. Donovan Ricketts will be serving the second week of his suspension, connected to his red card in the match at Colorado. On the injury front, Darlington Nagbe is likely unavailable for the Seattle match, having left the FCD match early with a hamstring injury. Steve Zakuani didn’t even make the trip to Texas because of the same type of injury. How he feels towards the end of the week will determine if Zakuani is even on the bench on Saturday to play against his former club.

But Michael Harrington won’t be suspended, as his red card from the FC Dallas match was rescinded by an MLS independent review panel on Thursday. Portland and Dallas had filed a joint appeal against the red cards issued to Harrington and FCD’s Je-Vaughn Watson in the first half of last Saturday’s match, and the panel upheld the appeal.

A familiar face is back in Portland this week, and that is Jake Gleeson. He returns to backup Andrew Weber for the Seattle match, having been named USL PRO’s Team of the Week for his performance in Sacramento’s 1-1 draw with LA Galaxy II last weekend. Sacramento has this week off, allowing Gleeson to come back to Portland for the week.

Thus the pressure on the Timbers to win this week, in spite of the injuries and red cards, may be higher than usual. That it’s Seattle Week only adds to that pressure, with Portland currently being 0-2-2 and already 8 points behind Western Conference leader FC Dallas, 6 points behind Vancouver and Real Salt Lake (tied for 2nd) and 4 points behind the Sounders. Thus, a win is vital for Portland, if just to make sure the clubs above of them don’t get too far ahead.

Recent history does show that the odds might be in Portland’s favor. In 2013, the Timbers came off of a winless March to get a home win against Houston on April 6, which started an undefeated April for the Timbers. It also started a run that didn’t see Portland losing at home again until the second leg of the conference final against RSL.

But that’s in the past. The current situation is fairly tedious. Three goals in 4 matches is a point of concern, as the inability to convert chances has cost the Timbers greatly. Road matches at Real Salt Lake and Houston loom after the current home stand against Seattle and an improved Chivas USA. Wins are badly needed, and the next few matches will be very tough.

With all of that, the immediate concern is this week, this Seattle Week, this first Cascadia Cup match of 2014. Even with the suspensions and injuries, there will be plenty of motivation to play hard and to win, simply because of the rivalry factor.

That a win would be a perfect springboard to get the 2014 season back on track? That’s even more appealing to the Timbers.

NEXT UP: April 5 – Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, Providence Park, Portland, Ore. 3:00 p.m. EST, NBCSN.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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