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Sounders: 10 things to know ahead of crucial derby clash with Timbers

Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders FC
Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders FC / Abbie Parr/GettyImages
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The Sounders are still battling to extend their MLS-record streak of 13 consecutive seasons qualifying for the playoffs. However, there are things happening which make you wonder if it's just not meant to be this year.

No matter how good a team is they still need some element of luck, especially to make the playoffs 13 straight years. In this respect, the first real sign Seattle's luck might be up, came in their recent loss to Atlanta, when the hosts won in the 94th minute courtesy of a fluke long-range strike.

Fast forward to last weekend and the game in Los Angeles, where the Sounders were leading 3-2 with time running down in the second half. Then, the Galaxy equalized in injury time after being awarded a penalty due to a lack of common sense being applied by the VAR.

To compound Seattle's run of bad luck, it was announced during this week that Cristian Roldan will be out for between four to six weeks. After originally believing he just needed some rest, the midfielder had to undergo groin surgery and will now conceivably miss the remainder of the regular season.

The latest derby clash between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers takes on even more significance than usual, with the heated rivals both fighting for their playoff lives.

If nothing else though, at least it's still in the Sounders' hands to turn things around. Even without Roldan, they have the talent to put together a string of positive results.

As for a change in their luck, if there's ever a game where they could use it, Friday's meeting with an equally desperate Timbers team would be the one. Here are 10 things to know ahead of the derby clash in Portland:

1) The all-time record between the heated rivals is as close as you would expect, with Portland holding a slight edge 18-16 in wins and the other seven games ending in draws. The previous meeting earlier this season saw the Timbers ruin the Sounders' unveiling of their CONCACAF Champions League banner, by winning 3-0.

2) Despite the Sounders' poor 3-8-2 road record this season, playing in Portland specifically isn't necessarily an issue. Since 2019 they have four wins at Providence Park, including a dominant 6-2 victory last season.

3) Aside from their playoff streak, Seattle is also the only club to win three consecutive Cascadia Cups in the MLS era. They currently sit four points behind Portland with a game in hand, meaning nothing less than a win will do on Friday.

4) In terms of the three Cascadia teams and the MLS playoffs, they enter the weekend all just outside the top seven in the Western Conference. Seattle and Portland are both one point behind Vancouver; the Sounders are also theoretically in the best position of the three, having played one game less.

5) The Timbers have found more success scoring goals this season, with a 43-35 advantage over the Sounders. (In fairness though, Seattle has a better defensive record, with a 34-44 edge.) Additionally, Portland has multiple scoring threats, as one of only three MLS teams to have five players with at least five goals this year.

6) As we wrote at the start of this week, Seattle's changed to a 5-3-2 formation for the game in Los Angeles, in part due to the late decision to scratch Roldan. His continued absence and Seattle's positive play versus the Galaxy means they are likely to keep the same setup in Portland.

7) Aside from Roldan, the Sounders will also continue to be without the services of Joao Paulo and Obed Vargas. Paulo is gone for the season after a right ACL tear, while Vargas has been out for multiple weeks with a lower back stress fracture and no indication of when he is likely to return.

8) The Sounders' recent run of poor form is understandably a disappointment for fans, with them collecting just seven points in their last nine games. For some context, they have only twice collected less points in any nine-game span during a single season, with five points on each occasion.

9) The Timbers are extremely tough to beat, as evidenced by an MLS-leading 12 draws so far this year and just eight loses, which is tied for third-least in the Western Conference. However, the Sounders have just three draws this season, with is tied for second-fewest in the league, while also recording the third-most losses in the Western Conference.

10) While talking to the media on Thursday, head coach Brian Schmetzer was asked about how players from other parts of the US and outside the country embrace the rivalry between Seattle and Portland. He said:

"Everybody that comes here understands that this is the rivalry. There's good ones, like the Galaxy and LAFC (which) is starting to be a good one. There's others across the league, but there's no other rivalry that has the amount of history, the length of time, the amount of games, the magnitude of the games, than Seattle Portland."

* Statistics courtesy of mlssoccer.com

What's your prediction for Friday's game. Will the Sounders win, lose or draw, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

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