The Portland Timbers are in the best possible spot for their situation. They went into CenturyLink Field and pulled out a win, and now the series shifts back to Jeld-Wen Field where Portland has been unbeatable this season.
Across all competitions, Portland has played 19 matches in their home stadium where they have earned a record of 13 wins, five draws and only one loss. That loss came at the hands of the Montreal Impact all the way back on March 9. In the same time frame, the Timbers have scored 36 goals while only conceding 12; the last goal they gave up at home was on August 21 in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake.
Do not expect Portland to sit back and play defensively in this second leg. They know that if they score the first goal, this series could practically be over. Only six times in the past two seasons has an opponent scored two or more goals during a match at Portland. This season alone, Portland has 12 shutouts at home.
Portland will need to do a better job finding Clint Dempsey in their defensive third. Dempsey was able to get off six shots in the first leg, hitting the crossbar once and missing by inches on a few other opportunities. They will also need to be careful conceding set pieces to Seattle. The Sounders had 11 corners in the first leg and had some great scoring chances off of those set pieces.
Seattle Sounders FC got some great news during Tuesday’s practice as injured players DeAndre Yedlin and Obafemi Martins “… did what we wanted them to do.” according to manager Sigi Schmid.
Both players if available are set to play crucial roles for the Sounders as they look to win in Portland and advance to the Western Conference Final for the second year in a row.
Recently, Schmid has used a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield, which focuses the attack towards the middle of the pitch. He encourages his wing backs to push forward into the attack if the opportunity arises. Yedlin is a speedy back with eyes to attack and with him out for the first leg, the inability to sustain pressure from the right wing was evident as replacement Zach Scott is not known as an offensive-minded player.
Martins will be needed at forward to fill in for Lamar Neagle, who is suspended for this match due to yellow card accumulation.
The Sounders are also keeping an eye on left back Leo Gonzalez, who has been fighting through a nagging injury during the stretch run of the season. If he is unfit to play, then expect to see Marc Burch set up at left-back. Playing Burch will be a plus for Schmid in this match as he is better at crossing from the wing than Gonzalez.
For the Sounders to be successful in this second leg, it is very important for Osvaldo Alonso to limit Darlington Nagbe in all aspects of the match. Nagbe has proven time and time again that he can score from just about anywhere in the attacking third. Michael Gspurning will need to be quick and decisive when Nagbe gets the ball around the box — Nagbe’s first touch and turn is so quick that by the time you realize he’s shooting, the ball is already in the back of the net.
Portland Timbers will host Seattle Sounders FC in Leg 2 of the Western Conference semifinals at Jeld-Wen Field on Thursday, Nov 7 at 11:00 p.m. ET. This match can be seen nationally on the NBC Sports Network in the United States and on TSN2 in Canada.
This is a two-game aggregate goal series; away goals are not used for the tiebreaker. If the series score is tied after 90 minutes, then the game will proceed into two 15-minute extra time periods. If it is still tied, then the match will move forward to penalty kicks.
After Leg 1, Portland Timbers lead series 2-1.
Leg 2 Prediction: Seattle Sounders 3, Portland Timbers 1 (After Extra Time)
Plain and simple — whomever scores first in this match will win the series. It will be a fiery match between two clubs with pure hatred of one another with the opportunity to send the other club home for the winter. Expect lots of cards and lots of passion.