The first meeting of 2022 between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers is finally here. This fixture is always a special one, and it will surely produce fireworks. Here are five things to know about the match:
Saturday’s match between the bitter rivals will be special for a variety of reasons. Rivalry weekends are always suspenseful and neither team wants to exit the match with an L in the history books. The Sounders have one thing that the Timbers do not have, though. And that is a Concacaf Champions League trophy. Before the start of the match, a banner will be unveiled at Lumen Field honoring the Sounders’ triumphant and historic CCL win. In addition, the players will wear a patch on their chests recognizing the championship. Prior to the game, there are a couple concerts featuring Travis Thompson and Head and the Heart Some, and the first 33,000 fans through the door get CCL championship commemorative pins. You can see a full schedule of events here. Some may say it’s a bit petty to celebrate the victory against the Timbers of all teams, but I think it’s only natural.
In the Sounders’ match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, DP striker Raul Ruidiaz came off the field in the 64th minute with a hamstring injury. The Peruvian striker was on a tear in MLS play, scoring 5 goals in 6 appearances following the conclusion of the CCL. The timing was unfortunate, but after a four-match break, head coach Brian Schmetzer confirmed to KJR on Wednesday that Ruidiaz would indeed start the match against Portland on Saturday. He’s got 10 goals in 11 career matches against the Timbers, the most of anyone in this rivalry’s history.
Since the second meeting of 2018, the winner of this fixture has most frequently been the visiting team. The Sounders have not managed to earn 3 points at Lumen Field against their Cascadian rivals since May of 2017 in a 1-0 victory. To emphasize how long it has been, Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans started in that game. The trend definitely has not been heading in the right direction, but what better time to turn it around than CCL recognition day?
Three points for either team would shoot them up the Western Conference standings. Seattle could jump from seventh to third, and Portland could go from 10th to seventh. The West is about as competitive as it has ever been, with most every team fully capable of making a late surge for a high-seeded playoff position. It’s important for any team looking to secure a playoff position – or move into one in Portland’s case – to pick up points in rivalry games like this that tend to be unpredictable.
The #BeatPortland weekend does not finish on Saturday! First, OL Reign hosted the Portland Thorns just under 26 hours later at Lumen Field. They sit 3rd and 4th in the NWSL table respectively, so it should be a very intense and highly competitive match. Both teams are missing some key internationals, but the Reign recently reloaded with the likes of Kim Little and Tobin Heath, and still have players like Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer available. Later that day, Timbers 2 host the Tacoma Defiance. The Defiance have been tearing up the competition in MLS Next PRO with only North Texas SC, St. Louis SC, and Crew 2 with better records. Things haven’t gone as well for Timbers 2 with only Real Monarchs SC with a worse record. I’d say on paper, Tacoma would be the favorites to win that game, so it’s definitely one to give a watch.