By Kristen Gehrke
At some point, one of the kind editors here at Prost Amerika will wise up and change my password before I further destroy their reputation as a Bastion of Sports Journalism Excellence. Or, at the very least, they’ll lock me out of the website during derby weeks. They really ought to know better.
Until then, I’ll slap a “Fan Culture” tag on this piece in case it isn’t already abundantly clear that I have a bias here. I’d very much like it if they’d create an “Off The Rails” tag to more clearly denote my state of mind when I write these things.
So, the Portland Timbers are traveling north to Tukwila to meet the Seattle Sounders in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup at Starfire Sports Complex Wednesday evening. It won’t be televised and last I heard, it was sold out (capacity at Starfire is a meager 4,500), but you’ll be able to catch a stream online through the Timbers website.
The Timbers are coming off of an oddly disappointing draw at LA Friday and the Sounders from a 1-nil loss at Vancouver Saturday. Portland and Seattle have a second meeting this week as well: the Timbers will travel to Seattle Sunday for a regular season MLS match.
I’ll try to tell you who might feature in this match, but in reality, I have no idea. A brief survey of folks around me has Timbers fans hoping for Andrew Weber in goal rather than Donovan Ricketts and Sounders folks looking for Marcus Hahnemann instead of Stefan Frei. Weber has held his own in USOC thus far and Hahnemann had an outstanding performance when Seattle hosted San Jose in the last round.
Portland has had some issues with injuries of late, listing defenders Norberto Paparatto and Pa Modou Kah, and midfielder Ben Zemanski on last week’s injury report. Additionally, coach Caleb Porter held forward Maximiliano Urruti out of Friday’s match.
Seattle will presumably be without forward Clint Dempsey and defender DeAndre Yedlin who have both just returned from international duty at the World Cup in Brazil. Forward Obafemi Martins was a late scratch from Seattle’s trip to Vancouver with a hamstring strain, though he was present at practice Monday. The Sounders are currently without defender Djimi Traore who saw significant minutes at the beginning of the season.
If I had to put money on it, I’d say Portland’s back line will look a lot like it did Friday: Jorge Villafana, Danny O’Rourke, Ruawshan McKenzie and Michael Harrington. If we don’t see McKenzie, rookie Taylor Peay is an excellent option on defense.
There’s a part of me that would like to see Jack Jewsbury in there somewhere, if not on the back line, then hanging deep in the midfield. He might be a tad slower than he used to be, but his positional awareness and experience has been an incredible attribute during the limited minutes he’s played this season. And I fully expect to see a full 90 from Diego Chara, who will miss this weekend’s Cascadia Cup match due to yellow card accumulation. Gaston Fernandez has picked up a brace in each of the Timbers last two USOC matches. I wonder if he can do it again.
For Seattle, I won’t be surprised to see a forward pairing of Kenny Cooper and Chad Barrett again. With a Brad Evans-Lamar Neagle midfield, the scoring threat is there, despite what we saw at Vancouver. The Zach Scott-Chad Marshall central defense will be nothing to sneeze at, either. But seriously, keep an eye on both Chads. If Seattle had one more Chad, they might be unstoppable.