MLS Countdown: Timbers' health improving

Three players sidelined by injuries recently could be ready for Portland when it hosts archrival Seattle Sunday at Providence Park.

Going through full training for the Timbers Wednesday were midfielder Ben Zemanski and defender Zarek Valentin. Both last played competitively July 31 in a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City. Zemanski has been rehabbing a groin injury and a bone bruise has kept Valentin out of the lineup.

Also working his way back to fitness is winger Darren Mattocks, hobbled by a hamstring injury. He trained separately from the team but is contention to make the 18-man, game-day roster.

Zemanski has logged one assist in 13 games (11 starts). Valentin has started 17 of his 18 appearances and scored one goal. Maddocks (one goal, one assist in 13 games) hasn’t played since leaving a 0-0 tie with the Red Bulls July 10 in the fourth minute.

Head coach Caleb Porter said, “I think all three of these guys will be available.” 

Portland lost to Seattle, 3-1, Saturday at CenturyLink Field, but aside from the result, Porter seemed pleased. After an hour of goalless play Seattle broke through with a penalty kick and scored twice more before substitute Fanendo Adi, left out of starting lineup after reportedly missing the team’s flight to Seattle, scored in stoppage time.

 “This was a lot closer game than 3-1,” said Porter in his postgame comments. “Anybody who knows the game can watch that and see it. That’s clear. If you look at the stats they tell the exact same story. The effort was there, the attitude was there, the organization was there. Everything was there.”

For the rematch, Portland -- which won the first meeting of the rivals at Providence Park, 3-1, on July 17 -- should be fresher than the Sounders, who snagged a 1-1 tie in Houston Wednesday with a stoppage-time goal by Nicolas Lodeiro.

Yet interim head coach Brian Schmetzer planned for the Houston game with Portland in mind: Clint Dempsey and Chad Marshall didn’t make the trip, and Jordan Morris, Andreas Ivanschitz and Joevin Jones came on as subs. Ivanschitz and Jones earned assists on Lodeiro’s goal, which rewarded a courageous effort that gained a point despite Seattle being outshot, 22-6.

Since Lodeiro's arrival, which dovetailed with the team firing head coach Sigi Schmid and promoting Schmetzer to replace him, the Sounders have not lost in five games. Three wins and two ties have lifted them into eighth place with 31 points, just a point back of Portland and San Jose, which plays at Columbus this weekend.

“They believe that if their legs are a little bit tired, that there’s someone behind them that’s gonna cover for them,” said Schmetzer after Wednesday's game. “That’s what those guys believe. You’re asking me if they’re going to be tired? Maybe. But they have such a strong mindset that they can persevere.”

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