Seattle Sounders have been on an excellent run post-MLS is Back Tournament in the summer, but haven’t won in their last two games. A 3-1 defeat to Bob Bradley’s LAFC was followed up last week by a 0-0 draw to San Jose Earthquakes, with the Sounders clearly missing the cutting edge of Raul Ruidiaz up front.
Portland Timbers are locked on the same number of points as the Sounders - 31 - but with a vastly inferior goal difference to their closest rivals. They too have struggled for results in their last two games, losing 2-1 to Real Salt Lake and drawing 1-1 with LAFC.
The Sounders still have a game in hand over the Timbers, with their most recent cancellation against Colorado Rapids due to COVID-19 positive tests adding to the already hectic fixture pile up in MLS. The Rapids have played five games less than most teams and both Seattle and Portland will have a part to play in the reorganisation of the fixtures in what promises to be a thrilling final stage of the regular season.
The Sounders will be without forward Raúl Ruidíaz (Peru), midfielder Gustav Svensson (Sweden) and defender Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) for the fourth consecutive match as they finish quarantine protocols following international duty. The earliest they could return is for the October 27th match against the Vancouver Whitecaps at the start of next week. Race Green fans will be desperate to have these players back available to stop the slump in results since International duty.
Portland have no new worries with their squad going into the game, with Sebastian Blanco, Andres Flores, Julio Cascante, Dairon Asprilla and Blake Bodily all injured and unavailable for the foreseeable future. There have been no return dates discussed for any of these players but Blanco is the the biggest miss for the Timbers by far.
Ones to watch
Seattle - Nicolás Lodeiro
Although kept quiet for the majority of the last two games, the Uruguayan is influential for the Sounders and will look to recapture the form that had made him a fan’s favourite since his arrival. His free kick in the defeat against LAFC shows how much quality he has, and what his is capable of on his day.
Portland - Diego Valeri
No player has more assists against the Sounders in MLS than Diego Valeri. The Argentine midfielder's nine assists against Seattle are two ahead of any other player in the league, and the veteran playmaker and talisman will be keen to extend his excellent record in this grudge match as the top two battle it out for top spot.
What the coaches had to say
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said in his pre-match press conference that the Sounders/Timbers clash is one of the biggest - if not the biggest - in MLS, after some fearsome battles over the years.
"Take the fans, put that aside. It matters to the players, it matters to the staff. It matters to the two organizations," Schmetzer said. "[Timbers coach] Gio [Savarese] is a nice a guy, I keep telling you guys, he's a really nice guy, great coach. He is. But don't think that the handshakes are very easy after we lose. Or don't think him having to come across to me after we beat them 3-0 down there -- don't think that was easy for him, because it's not.
"And the players on the field measure themselves against each other all the time in this rivalry. You can go back to the Zach Scotts, the Taylor Grahams, the Roger Levesques, the battles we've had in the USL days, you can fast-forward it to Gonzo [Pineda], Djimi [Traore], [Clint] Dempsey -- all of the great players that the Seattle Sounders franchise has had on their roster over the years, I'd be willing to bet if you asked them, they'd say the rivalry is a big deal."
Speaking before the game with the media this week, Portland Head Coach Giovanni Saverese also said he still feels the intensity and energy that come with these games, and that the rivalry between the two clubs is one of the bitterest in MLS.
"Yes, it is a rivalry match and the mentality and the feeling is always the same: As soon as we step on the field we know we're playing Seattle and we want to beat them," Savarese said. "We want to make our fans proud wherever they're watching the match, and we're going to go against our rivals to make sure we try to get three points. These matches are always difficult. They have been playing well, they're always very competitive, we always try to be very competitive against them. I think inside the field nothing changes.
“Of course it's not the same either way when we go there and they have their fans or when they're here and we have our fans. I think that part you miss. But I think what happens inside the field, that competitive level, the competition, the willingness to beat your rival is always going to be there in our mind going into this match."
Seattle Sounders: Frei, A Roldan, Gomez, O’Neill, Tolo; Delem, João Paulo; C Roldan, Lodeiro, Morris; Bruin.
Portland Timbers: Clark; Duvall, Mabiala, Zuparic, Villafaña; Chara, Williamson; Ebobisse, Valeri, Chará; Mora.
How to watch
The match kicks off at 22:30 ET/ 19:30 PT, and is on TV on FS1 and FOX Deportes. If you want to stream this game, it is available on MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada.