TUKWILA – The Sounders have reached one of those weeks in the grind of an eight-month regular season where motivation is no issue.
Most know it well by now: Timbers Week.
Zach Scott, a Sounders veteran since 2002, said he doesn’t even have to talk to new or young players about the rivalry anymore: “Everyone understands how important it is.”
Added coach Sigi Schmid: “If we have to motivate a Seattle player for the Seattle-Portland match, then he hasn’t really identified with the spirit of the club.”
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Indeed, emotions will be heightened in Saturday’s clash at Providence Park, the Sounders’ first meeting against their archrival since Portland triumphed last November in the Western Conference semifinals.
A gem of an early-season matchup, however, will have both teams facing a number of personnel issues — particularly the Timbers, who are winless through four games at 0-2-2.
Portland’s first concern is health, as star midfielder Darlington Nagbe and ex-Sounder Steve Zakuani are nursing hamstring injuries. Nagbe, who had a career-high nine goals in 2013, isn’t expected to be available, and Zakuani is deemed day-to-day.
Secondly, Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts will be completing his two-game suspension Saturday, a punishment stemming from a reckless tackle Week 3 in Colorado, and defender Michael Harrington is also suspended following a red card last week in Dallas.
The Harrington penalty isn’t sitting well with coach Caleb Porter. He told reporters Tuesday the team is appealing the suspension, using the word “ridiculous” four times Tuesday when addressing the red-card decision by assistant referee George Gansner (he had instructed referee Sorin Stoica to eject Harrington and FC Dallas midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson).
“Seems like some of the officials, maybe because they had some time off, are trying to make up for lost time,” Porter told reporters, referencing the league’s referee work stoppage.
“Maybe because the linesmen have new contracts they’re trying to be the show a little bit too much to prove their worth. I’m not sure. Bottom line is — we’re told to bite our lip all the time — that’s a ridiculous call. Ridiculous.”
One would think Porter could be in line for retroactive discipline for such pointed comments. Many feel the MLS Disciplinary Committee could also have punishment in store for Timbers defender Pa Modou Kah for a dangerous tackle Saturday.
Does all this make Portland a vulnerable opponent? Perhaps, but Seattle has its share of issues as well, coming off two losses in its last three games — both at home.
Defender Djimi Traore will be serving a suspension for his red card in Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to Columbus and coach Sigi Schmid said Tuesday that midfielder Brad Evans could miss his third straight game with a calf injury, a lingering issue that forced Seattle’s captain to withdraw from the U.S. roster for Wednesday’s friendly against Mexico.
Elsewhere, Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin have traveled to Phoenix for the USMNT’s 8:15 p.m. game Wednesday, and an extended role for either against Mexico could affect availability against the Timbers.
• Schmid said the Sounders knew early on they wanted to sign forward Kevin Parsemain, an invitee who tied for the team’s preseason lead with three goals. Finishing all the paperwork, however, delayed the signing until Friday. “He’s got good touch and has good explosion, so he’s somebody who’s going to be important to us as we move forward,” the coach said.
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