Friday, August 25, 2017

Prediction Thread Week 25 - Timbers v Sounders Final Chapter 2017

I wished he was playing. Not that guy, the other guy who drives them crazy
It's been a really strange few weeks in the land of Timbers predictions. After Lucy spent most of August dominating after she joined the collective, it was Kip that somehow came up with a correct result and exact score in the match versus the Red Bulls. With the compressed timelines between matches and life getting in the way, the editors chose to skip the Rapids match for predictions and instead turn the attention to this weekend's Cascadia Cup clash in the Emerald City. With the Timbers holding on for the win over Colorado and the Flounders drawing with the Vancouver Whitecaps at B.C. Place, the stakes for this weekend's fixture are huge. It's so big that the Rose City Soccer Show, the podcast I participate in when the planets are all in alignment, was able to record our first new episode in quite some time with the full crew present. I'm just glad that I didn't break the profanity clause during the taping, but I came awfully close a few times. While I normally hate the massive hype machine that goes into overdrive for these matches, it can't be overlooked the importance of a result for either side. While rivalry matches have pressure and stress built in normally, this one will have plenty of influence on several key races.

If you look simply at the current MLS Western Conference standings, it's first place versus second place. The Sounders, current owners of a 10 match unbeaten streak since losing to the San Jose Earthquakes back on June 28, have vaulted up due to improved defense combined with finding their scoring touch at the right time. While Jordan Morris has been contributing all season, it's been the steady play of Cristian Roldan and Nicolas Loderio combined with the experience of Will Bruin and the resurgence of Clint Dempsey that has the Sounders thinking MLS Cup defense. Portland has been up and down through most of 2017 with defensive struggles, but the Timbers offense continues to surge behind the exploits of Diego Valeri, Fanendo Adi, Sebastian Blanco and Darlington Nagbe. The Timbers are tied for second in all of MLS in goals scored in 2017 at 47, but their defensive issues have kept the team from joining the discussion of elite teams in the league. Nothing emphasized that issue more than watching Toronto FC, arguably the best side all year, dismantle the Timbers a few weeks ago behind a second half avalanche of goals. In the race for Cascadia Cup 2017, the Timbers currently lead the standings with 7 points on 2 wins (both over Vancouver) and 1 draw (Flounders at home), and they could strengthen their position greatly with a win on Sunday. While Vancouver could theoretically catch the Timbers because they have 2 matches remaining to play after the Timbers - Sounders match, Portland currently leads in the first tiebreaker of goal differential.

Everyone on the buses this weekend, travel safe & sane.
But I think there is a bit more to this than most folks realize, and I think Timbers Coach Caleb Porter and his team know the terms. The Timbers aren't happy one bit that the Sounders stole a point at the death when someone forgot to cover Dempsey on a set piece during the June 25 match (ironically rescheduled from an afternoon kick to evening kick due to extreme heat in the Portland area) and the Sounders were able to celebrate in front of the Timbers Army. I also think the last match in 2016 versus Vancouver factors somewhat into the approach, too; the Timbers had a chance for the playoffs and Cascadia Cup in their final visit to Vancouver but they needed the right result. Unfortunately, the Caps buried the Timbers in a sea of second half goals and Portland left Canada empty handed despite the Timbers having schedule advantages in hosting both Cascadia sides twice. The Cascadia Cup might not be on the radar for some players, but being embarrassed on the road under any circumstance is something nobody likes. While the Timbers have exercised some demons with their July win in Canada, they'd love nothing more to return the favor to their other rival.

We all know the Timbers history at Century Link during the regular season hasn't been good, especially in the MLS era where the Timbers have yet to post a victory. However, one of the Timbers biggest franchise wins took place on this very pitch back in 2013, and the Timbers earned a little hardware here back in 2010 that ranked high upon my own personal happy moments traveling to Flounder Land over the years. I know players change from season to season, but they get hyped up for rivalry matches just like the rest of us. Portland will have several questions to deal with in determining their lineup with David Guzman unavailable for accumulation suspension, plus the health of Adi, Liam Ridgewell, Jake Gleeson and Marco Farfan. Meanwhile, the Sounders will be missing the services of defender Joevin Jones, currently the team leader in assists for 2017, and a huge cog of their back line and attack. Replacing him will be tough for Sounders Coach Brian Schmetzer, while I could see 1 of 2 options for Porter to replace Guzman - straight swap with Ben Zemanski or put Nagbe next to Diego Chara and give either Dairon Asprilla or Victor Arboleda the start on the wings. But Porter will have learned and forgotten more about soccer that I might ever acquire, so I'm sure he has a plan at the ready. With that, what do our fearless predictors have to say about this weekend? Let's find out!!

Another Timbers &%^#ing suspended for a Sounders match?

Rick: Timbers 1, Sounders 1

Portland are W0, D2, L7 with a Goals For of 5 and Goals Allowed of 15 in Seattle. I'm thinking a draw would be a good results considering that Guzman (yellow card suspension) is out and Adi, Gleeson, Ridgewell (various injuries) and Asprilla (flu) are questionable starters.

I promise not to get in front of the TV much, but no promises on swearing

Kip: Timbers 2, Sounders 1

I completely understand the history at that venue for the Timbers, but history is not always doomed to repeat itself. While the Sounders are on a good run of form, we've seen the Timbers scrap at times on the road. I think this is one of those instances considering the stakes and the results the last time these sides met.

I like fish, but not those guys up North. They smell funny.

Tortie: Timbers 15, Sounders 9

I appreciate the optimism of the tortoise shelled ninja cat, who again put on a cacophony of noise during her prediction interview. Since it wasn't at meal time, I can only assume she's just excited about goals and the Timbers will get more. Now if the players could only oblige her.

Yes, I did research this week. Now tell me, what the heck is a soccer ball?

GB: Timbers 0, Sounders 2

GB is decidedly pro-Portland as he's lived here all his life. However, he was impressed with the 10 match unbeaten streak and that was enough to sway him in this case. He does wish that they wouldn't wear that unfortunate shade of green anymore. It's just not right.

I'm excited about Sunday because the match is after dinner & I can nap!

Lucy: Timbers 3, Sounders 2

Lucy has become one of the more vocal cats of our collective, as her meows alternate between shrieks and yells. She was very excited about this match, and meowed for each side. The Timbers got 3 shrieks while the Sounders got 2 yells, so we know which side she's rooting for.

Contemplative cat is contemplating

Spot: Timbers 0, Sounders 1

Well, she didn't call for a scoreless draw, but the cat princess is thinking the Timbers' fan will be unhappy during their ride home from the match. Spot doesn't like changes in routine, and knowing the history of Timbers matches up North, she's betting on things staying the same.

I'm not just a cat, I'm a very good goalkeeper

Moya: Timbers 0, Sounders 3

I'm disappointed in what the black cat said during her discussion, but she's a very good cat goalkeeper, so I trust her soccer skills. Without Fanendo Adi, Moya thinks the Timbers will have issues scoring. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Pilot smash! Doors bad.

Pilot: Timbers 3, Sounders 0

Pilot is a very good cat, but he has recently resumed a habit he had when he was a kitten: running full speed into a door and trying to open it with his head. It worked a few times, so apparently he thinks it will work again. As far as soccer, he's going against his sister and pro Portland & Timbers. Anyone know where I can find a helmet for a cat?

1 comment:

  1. Mark predicted scoreless draw, Jennifer predicted plenty of bule, but in the end, it's Rick with the correct score and result. - The Editors.