PORTLAND – A couple of days of secrecy will come to an end today when a national television audience watches the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers in the first Cascadia Cup match of the new Major League Soccer season.
Both teams closed their practices in advance of the game, adding an element of suspense to the lineups that will be revealed before a sellout crowd at Providence Park.
It is known that the Timbers will be without goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who is serving out his two-game disciplinary suspension. However, key Portland field players Darlington Nagbe (leg) and Steve Zakuani (hamstring) were listed as questionable all week. Seattle-area media were told that Zakuani was not available for interviews.
The availability of either or both could be important as this match unfolds, but Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said the uncertainly didn’t interfere with his team’s preparations.
“How we’re playing is our No. 1 concern,” he said Friday. “So we need to know everything that we can about the opponents in order to prepare appropriately and properly. But a lot of that is for us as coaches sometimes. At the end of the day, the important thing is that we’re playing our game and that we’re concerned with how we’re doing.”
The Sounders also offer their own mysteries for Timbers coach Caleb Porter.
Central defender Djimi Traore is out on red-card suspension, but Schmid did not make clear whether he would be replaced by newcomer Jalil Anibaba or veteran Zach Scott.
Midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans trained only lightly this week, with Schmid indicating Alonso is expected to be ready while Evans likely needs more time.
Also uncertain are the roles for midfielder Clint Dempsey and right back DeAndre Yedlin. Both returned to training Friday after playing in the United States national team’s 2-2 draw with Mexico on Wednesday.
“The whole group’s back together,” Schmid said. “That’s a good thing for us. And obviously their experience with the national team, anytime they bring those experiences back it helps us.”
Dempsey, 31, played the entire 90 minutes Wednesday, adding some question to the extent of his role this weekend. Schmid said Dempsey on Friday was “a little bit tired, but I think he’ll be fine for (Saturday).”
Yedlin, 20, played only the final 19 minutes against Mexico and said he was ready.