PORTLAND, Ore. — A noon kickoff in the Rose City has brought the Timbers Army out early for the season’s first visit from their arch rivals. Winless in 2014, the Portland Timbers host the Seattle Sounders in the first game of the Major League Soccer weekend, with coverage available on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.
Seattle enters the game with a three-game losing streak against their regional rivals, with back-to-back defeats in last year’s postseason seeing the Sounders out in the Western Conference semifinals. This season, Sigi Schmid’s team has started 2-2-0 but enter Saturday’s match having lost at home to Columbus, 2-1 last week.
Their effort to avoid a two-game losing streak will be helped by the return of U.S. captain Clint Dempsey, whose suspension for violent conduct against Toronto’s Mark Bloom expired with last week’s loss. He’ll move into a team that switched formation in his absence, moving away from a 4-2-3-1 setup to embrace a true 4-3-3 against Columbus and Montréal. Left-sided attack makes way with Dempsey’s return, while starting center back Djimi Traoré sits after the red card he earned against the Crew.
For Portland, 2013 Goalkeeper of the Year Donovan Ricketts will serve the second match of his own suspension, incurred for his red card on Colorado’s DeShorn Brown two weeks ago. In his place, former Sounder Andrew Weber will get his second start since moving south, with the former New Mexico Lobo having conceded twice in last week’s loss at Dallas.
Though they allowed multiple goals last week, the Timbers’ main problem has been scoring, having only found three goals in four games. Hoping to address that, Portland head coach Caleb Porter has given Kalif Alhassan and Alvas Powell their first starts of the season.
Portland Timbers: Andrew Weber; Alvas Powell, Norberto Paparatto, Pa Modou Kah, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Will Johnson; Kalif Alhassan, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, Maxi Urruti
Subs: Jake Gleeson, Futty Danso, Jack Jewsbury, Steve Zakuani, Ben Zemanski, Gastón Fernández, Frédéric Piquionne
Seattle Sounders: Stefan Frei; DeAndre Yedlin, Chad Marchall, Jalil Anibaba, Leo Gonzalez; Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda, Michael Ariza; Kenny Cooper, Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey
Subs: Marcus Hahnemann, Zach Scott, Marco Pappa, Lamar Neagle, Kévin Parsemain, Char Barrett, Dylan Remick