Sounders and Timbers have playoff history outside of MLS
Posted by: Matt Gaschk
The two rivals will meet for the first time in the MLS postseason.
When Sounders FC meets the Portland Timbers on Saturday in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinal series at CenturyLink Field, it will mark the fourth time in the history of the two cities that they will meet in the playoffs, starting with the North American Soccer League playoffs in 1975.
Here is a look back at those three prior playoff matchups, starting with Portland’s inaugural year in the NASL.
August 12, 1975
The Seattle Sounders were in just their second season in the NASL, but were the senior team to Portland, who was playing in its first year in 1975. However, the Timbers bettered the Sounders in the regular season with a 16-6 record, one game better than Seattle’s 15-7. That meant the Timbers would host the quarterfinal meeting between the two teams and the game went to overtime before Portland could grind out the 2-1 result. Eventually, the Timbers would lose to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the 1975 Soccer Bowl, but the first-round playoff series was the first in a long line of highly competitive matches between Portland and Seattle.
September 1 and 5, 2004
Last week, Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid made the bold move to switch to a diamond-shaped midfield in order to better take advantage of the offensive talents of Clint Dempsey.
However, it’s not the first time the Sounders have switched to a diamond formation late in the season to spark the offense. The most prominent example came in 2004, when current assistant coach Brian Schmetzer was leading the USL Sounders.
In the first leg of the series, Portland took a 2-1 lead on goals by Byron Alvarez and Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar, with Roger Levesque scoring for Seattle.
In the second leg, Schmetzer needed an adjustment to get into the attack and, at the suggestion of Sounders legend Jimmy Gabriel, opted for a diamond midfield.
“We actually shifted to a diamond and Billy Sleeth got forward and had a really influential assist on the opening goal and set the tone for that whole ’04 playoffs,” Schmetzer said. “We caught them off guard for that one game and that kind of launched us.”
Brazilian forward Welton scored in regulation, then again in golden goal overtime to send Seattle through to the next round. Like Portland in 1975, though, Seattle would lose in the final, falling 2-0 to the Montreal Impact.
September 16 and 18, 2005
We all know about Levesque’s speedy scoring exploits against the Timbers – for those that don’t, he scored just 48 seconds into a match against Portland in the 2009 U.S. Open Cup. In the 2005 USL playoffs, he also got Seattle off to a blazingly fast start against the Timbers, this time scoring in the second minute of the first leg of the series.
That goal would stand in the match and Seattle went back to Starfire for the second leg two days later with a 1-0 series lead.
Levesque continued his scoring romp in that match, too, scoring first in the fifth minute and again in the 54th minute to give Seattle the 3-0 win in the series. That year, would end with triumph, as Seattle topped the Richmond Kickers in a shootout for the team’s third title in the USL/A-League.
The playoff matches added spice to the existing rivalry. But now in the MLS era with the spotlight of a national television audience and the growing exposure of the league around the country, it magnifies the intensity exponentially.
“The rivalry is massive. Now that it’s actually a playoff series, it grows into … Mt. Rainier,” Schmetzer said. “It’s more than massive. It’s huge.”