Brian Schmetzer is expecting to face a “super motivated” opponent when arch rivals Seattle Sounders welcome Portland Timbers to Lumen Field on Sunday.
The Sounders have won three league games in a row to tighten their hold on top spot in the Western Conference, while the Timbers are winless in three and are now outside the playoffs.
Portland were thrashed 6-2 when the sides met earlier this month, but they are unbeaten in their last three trips to Seattle since 2018 and Schmetzer is wary of an opponent out for revenge.
“They have a very good coach, and I know that he’s going to be super motivated in this game,” Schmetzer said. “Whatever tactics, whatever line-up, whatever he does, I know he’ll have his team prepared.
“My very strong message is that we need to make sure that we’re focused. We’re absolutely laser focused. I’m trying to cover all the bases and let them know that we don’t want to fall into any sort of trap game.”
Portland have conceded 10 goals in their three-game winless run, six of those coming in the reverse meeting with Seattle two weeks ago, and head coach Giovanni Savarese accepts a big improvement is needed.
“Defensively, we haven’t been good,” Savarese said. “We’ve allowed too many goals. And that’s the responsibility of all of us: the players, coaches, me as the leader of this group.
“We have gone through a lot of videos. We have addressed a lot of the things. We have worked because we have seen repetitive patterns that need to be better.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Seattle Sounders – Nicolas Lodeiro
Lodeiro was introduced as a half-time substitute when the sides met two weeks ago, with Seattle going on to score four goals in the following 45 minutes. It is surely no coincidence that the Sounders have taken 10 points from a possible 12 since their captain returned from injury, having lost three of their previous four games.
Portland Timbers – Eryk Williamson
Williamson is another who did not feature from the beginning in that previous encounter – or at all, in fact, due to health and safety protocols – but he was back in the XI for last week’s meeting with Austin. That is a big boost for the Timbers heading into Sunday’s trip to Lumen Field as the West’s second-highest scoring side face off against the team with the leakiest defense.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Sounders have won the first two meetings between the teams this season. Neither team has ever swept a single regular season series against the other in MLS.
– Seattle are returning home after winning three straight matches on the road, in a seven-day span from August 15-21. The Sounders’ last seven matches have seen them play four on the road, winning all of them, and three at home, collecting just one point (D1 L2).
– Only Chicago Fire (one point) have taken fewer points away from home than Portland (five – W1 D2 L7) this season. The Timbers have allowed 24 goals in 10 away matches this season, only Toronto (30 in 12) have given up more goals on the road in 2021.
– Sounders substitutes have scored an MLS-high eight goals this season with Raul Ruidiaz, Fredy Montero, and Jimmy Medranda each having scored twice in reserve roles in 2021.
– The Timbers have allowed 17 set-piece goals this season (including penalties), five more than any other MLS team (Fire – 12). In total, 43.6 per cent of the goals Portland have allowed this season have come on set pieces, only Seattle (47.1 per cent – 8/17) have a higher percentage.