Game notes prepared by the Portland Timbers’ media-information staff bill the Sunday match against Seattle Sounders FC as a renewal of “one of North American soccer’s longest and most heated rivalries.”
The “heated” part probably wasn’t intended as a pun, but it could work that way, as the forecast calls for temperatures around 90 degrees in the Rose City at the scheduled 4 p.m. start time.
That actually represents some relief for both teams, as earlier predictions warned of temperatures around 100. That kind of heat could have been serious for spectators as well as players, and the Timbers have made adjustments to their normal rules by allowing fans to bring in plastic bottles containing water and sports drinks, and by installing a “cooling tent” and water stations in Providence Park concourses.
Still, two hours in 85-90 degrees is enough to affect players — and therefore affect play.
“Any time it’s hot, you usually see a slower game,” said Seattle central defender Chad Marshall, who played for a decade in Columbus. “Obviously, it’s a different kind of heat. You don’t have the humidity you get in the Midwest or the East Coast, so hopefully that will help. It will just be a drier heat and guys can play through it. But, yeah, it always seems to be a slower game when it’s pretty high temperatures.”
That opinion brings a rare moment of unity between the Sounders and Timbers.
“Yeah, for sure, right in the middle of the day,” Portland midfielder Will Johnson agreed Saturday. “We’ll see how it goes. With any weather condition it’s the same for both teams. It’s just something we’ve got to deal with, so we’ll see what it’s like (Sunday) and get on with it.”
Regardless of how the weather affects the players on the artificial pitch, players who are absent certainly will be relevant as both teams will be missing designated players.
Portland will be without DP defender Liam Ridgewell, who is serving a red-card suspension from the Timbers’ midweek match at Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Seattle will be without DP forwards and goals leaders Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, due to suspension and injury, respectively.
“The way this league is set up, the designated players are massive pieces for every team — ours included,” Johnson said. “… In a lot of way they’re equally as good as when they have Dempsey/Martins, for my money. I think it’ll be a different kind of performance. It’s not going to be as pretty and as flashy as when you’ve got Dempsey and Martins doing give-and-goes and flicks and scoring goals out of nothing. But you’re still going to have a team that competes, is better defensively and has capabilities of scoring goals.”
Even at less than full strength, the Sounders are expected to have more options than they did in back-to-back losses to San Jose and Philadelphia. DP midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and forward Chad Barrett are expected back from injury, and defender Brad Evans trained Saturday and could play.
The Sounders also made a roster addition Saturday, signing forward Andy Craven from the Sounders 2 USL team. Seattle originally selected him as the 48th overall pick of the 2015 SuperDraft.
“We just felt we needed more depth at that position, and Craven’s been the player on S2 who’s consistently been goal-dangerous and worked hard up front,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “… Sometimes you throw guys in and you see if he can sink or swim. He’s a guy who I think can swim.”