Throw form out the window — it’s Portland week

UPDATE (June 23 5:20 p.m.) — After chatting with some other fans and looking at the Sounders current depth with two matches in three days, I have reworked the potential starting 11.

Before we even get started, its #pummelportscum so get ready for a long preview — we’re covering everything. Also use the hashtag.

Courtesy of Emerald City Supporters

Gas up your chainsaws, put on your plaid and get ready for some Tiber chopping as Seattle Sounders FC head south on I-5 to face Cascadia rival Portland Timbers in the first of three meetings this season.

Sure, Seattle is on a six match MLS winless streak, we’ll be missing midfielder Alvaro Fernandez due to a dumbass red card suspension and we’ll be playing in one of the most hostile environments in the league. But none of that matters when you face a rival like the Timbers — prepare for an unexpected 90 minutes.

Portland has struggled to say the least early this season, falling to eighth place in the Western Conference grabbing 13 points in 13 matches. They also suffered the biggest embarrassment of the season so far, falling to amateur side Cal FC in the third round of the US Open Cup (Seattle beat Cal FC 5-0 the following week). But regardless of form, Portland does field a talented attacking side.

Scottish international striker Kris Boyd leads the team with four goals on the year and could score one or two more in his first I-5 Derby. He is now joined by former Philly man Danny Mwanga who at only 20 years old still has a lot of talented football in front of him.

The two forwards will be joined in the midfield by players like Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe among others who bring both skill on the ball and experience to the center of the Portland attack.

The weak part of the Timbers formation has always been at the back line where they are anchored by  Jack Jewsbury, Eric Brunner (who will miss the match due to a concussion) and “Futty” Danso along with veteran keeper Troy Perkins.

UPDATE (June 23 3:40 p.m.) — Hanyer Mosquera, the Timbers starting center back for the majority of the season so far, has been suspended by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for three games starting against Seattle. Mosquera punched LA Galaxy forward Jack McBean in the 94th minute of their game last Saturday.

Expect to see Portland to play a straightforward brand of soccer with a lot of the ball at the feet and onto the head of Boyd. Aerial attacks will be common with crosses coming from the wings which could trouble either Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado or Patrick Ianni whomever of the two get the start at center back.

One interesting thing to watch from the Sounders will be how they line up against Portland. We saw a diamond formation in the Kansas City match in which captain Mauro Rosales took the CAM role and Brad Evans went out to the RM slot. This opened up the game a bit for Rosales who played a true number 10 role with the attack coming through him, but limited his production as an fantastic crosser of the ball as we saw from the Ianni Goal.

A crucial decider in whether of not coach Sigi Schmid will keep Rosales in the middle will be the health and availability of winger Steve Zakuani who made the 18 for the first time in 14 months Wednesday night. The concern though with Zakuani is bringing him back in the starting 11 in what will be a physical and emotional match. Another option for Schmid would be to bring either Evans or Andy Rose into the middle and put Rosales back on the right wing.

The other questions for Schmid all string across the defense which is in desperate need of a clean sheet. Will Adam Johnasson be good to go at the right back slot, who will be the two center backs selected and will it be Andrew Weber or Bryan Meredith in goal? The last thing a struggling teams needs is confusion at the back, especially going into a rivalry match.

And just like last week, expect no changes up front for Seattle where the duo of Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson will have plenty of chances to score just like they did mid-week.

Three things to watch for —

1. The Portscum crowd — The lively, loud and kinda nasty group that calls themselves the Timbers Army are one hell of a supporters group. One thing that is not lacking in the northwest is love for soccer and the TA show their support as good as the Emerald City Supporters. The problem for the TA though is the size of their baseball field stadium they play in.

Like Seattle, Portland could probably get 30K + per match but are limited by the size of Jeld-Wen Field which only holds about 20K. What it lacks in size though they make up in noise and intimidation. The fans are right on top of the players in Portland which makes for a buzzing atmosphere.

2. There will be cards, a lot of cards — This should seem like a “duh” statement with it being a rivalry match mixed with Seattle’s luck lately, but expect a lot of yellow cards and even a red or two. On the pitch these two sides really take it to one another (see reason above for why Zakuani may not play), which rests in some hard tackles and short refereeing tempers. Speaking of refs, the Sounders lucked out (insert sarcasm here) by drawing our old friend Ricardo Salazar who frankly seems to hate Seattle. Watch for Salazar to be quick with a card to make sure the focus is on him instead of the match.

3. The Sounders need a win, and there’s no better time than against Portland — Six MLS matches without a win is the current story for the men in rave green, but not so long ago fans and players were relishing the five match winning streak and first place in the conference. My how times have changed. But the one things that the fans know is the talent this Sounders side has. Players like Montero and Alonso are European level talent, hell our captain played for Ajax. Every team has a skid, hopefully Seattle’s will end with Portland.

Players to watch —

1. Mike Fucito — The former Seattle fan favorite Mike Fucito was sadly traded away this offseason to a team in France (Montreal actually) along with Lamar Neagle for the rights to Johnson. That was no problem, it was a fresh start for the talented Fucito who struggled to find playing time in Seattle. But then the unthinkable happened, he was traded again to Portland. Say it ain’t so Mike, your skin should break into hives if that jersey touches you. He was a Timber. The final blow to the balls of the Seattle fans who supported him came in the past week when Fucito said about the Sounders, “I think it would be hard to put on the other (jersey) at this point.” For shame Mike, for shame.

Osvaldo Alonso — The hard tackling, American (feels great to write that now) CDM is arguably the Sounders best and most important player. In Seattle’s 4-1 loss in Montreal, Alonso was out serving a suspension. Fast forward to Wednesday and Alonso shut down the skilled Graham Zusi in the second half. He will face a less, but still difficult task against Portland with their creative CAM Nagbe. If Ozzie can keep the Timers midfielders at bay, the back four should be able to keep a closer eye on Boyd and Mwanga.

Projected starting 11 — Again this is very fluid, but all I can say is I’m excited to see what Sigi puts out on the field Sunday. The players in bold are subject to change in my mind, but who knows, it could be a whole roster reworking. Andrew Weber looks like he will get the start in goal, and why not? One goal allowed vs KC and it was off a deflection. Adam Johansson may not be fit enough and Zach Scott has plenty of experience playing against Portscum. Mauro Rosales deserves to rest this match for a good game against KC so my guess in Cordell Cato or maybe Portscum’s favorite man to hate, Roger Levesque. Andy Rose provides a bit more of a spark and more entertaining brand of soccer than Brad Evans, but this one is most likely to change depending on how Sigi feels. Sammy Ochoa will probably get the nod up top with Fredy to rest Eddie Johnson for the Tuesday USOC match. Notice that Levesque may also start up top with Fredy due to the fact that both Sammy and Fredy play holding roles and are kind of lethargic. A fast runner like a Levesque or even a Cato could complement well.

GK, Andrew Weber (Meredith)
CB, Patrick Ianni    CB, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (Jeff Parke)
RB, Zach Scott (Johansson)                                   LB, Marc Burch
CDM, Osvaldo Alonso
RM, Cordell Cato (Levesque)               LM, Alex Caskey
CAM, Andy Rose (Evans)
FW, Fredy Montero     FW, Sammy Ochoa (Levesque)

Prediction — Any match between two Cascadia rivals, especially Portland and Seattle are pretty much impossible to predict the score of, so I’m just going to say what I hope to see. With Brunner out of Portland’s back line I expect to see Seattle score goals, plain and simple. I also expect Boyd to get some chances in the air. Seattle has to win this one and they know it. 3-1 Sounders.

Where to watch — No local TV on this one, ESPN picked up the rights here so it’s either ESPN, ESPN3.com or the Watch ESPN app. Also Ross and Kasey will have the radio call at 97.3 FM. We will also be tweeting with the hashtag #pummelportscum so follow that on Twitter.