Last week, after the Sounders played to a scoreless draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place in Vancouver, Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid compared their schedule to a playoff series. In the analogy, they opened on the road and would finish at home on Sunday against the Portland Timbers in a Cascadia Cup match at CenturyLink Field.
Such is the Sounders desire to win this match. It’s a home match against a rival with valuable points in the standings on the line as the Sounders try to keep pace with the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake in a battle for second place in the Western Conference standings as well as remain in contention for the Cascadia Cup.
“We need three points for the Cascadia Cup,” said midfielder and captain Mauro Rosales. “We can play against them like we are in the playoffs. We have to have the mentality to win the game and try to be the better team on the field.”
The same two teams have met twice this season, but each of those matches carried their own personality and Sunday’s meeting should be no different.
In the first match on June 24 at Jeld-Wen Field, Kris Boyd opened scoring in the 16th minute and the Timbers held on for a 2-1 win behind the goalkeeping of Troy Perkins, who finished the match with five saves. Boyd is now unavailable for the Timbers with a groin injury and Perkins has since been traded to the Montreal Impact in exchange for goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
The second match was also at Jeld-Wen Field on September 15 and even though it was just three weeks ago, the dynamic of the Sounders and Timbers have both changed, with Portland losing players to injury and the Sounders getting players back from injury. Neither Rosales nor Christian Tiffert were available for the Sounders in the second meeting and the Timbers lost Ricketts and midfielders Franck Songo’o and Diego Chara to injuries in the match. Songo’o was back in action in their next match, but Ricketts and Chara have missed all three matches that the Timbers have played since.
Add to that an injury to defender Hanyer Mosquera and the Timbers will have some patching up to do with their lineup before Sunday’s clash.
“They’re a hungry team. This is their season,” Schmid said, who noted that the Sounders have what it takes to match that do-or-die mentality. “The rivalry helps bring that about. 67,000 fans will help that along, as well. As a group, we want to hold on to the Cascadia Cup, so we want to play good soccer and match that. We don’t want to forget about what is beyond it, but on the same token, not forget about what we’re doing tomorrow.”
The players echo that sentiment, noting the importance of the rivalry match to the massive crowd expected at CenturyLink Field. The fact that Portland has already been eliminated from playoff contention is irrelevant to the Sounders and their cause.
“We want to win this game and there are no excuses for us to not win this game and make three points,” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “Portland doesn’t have a good position in the standings, but in the derby everything is different. In the derby it’s about passion. We need to have the passion and if we don’t, we won’t win this game.”
The Timbers are 7-15-9 on the season and sit eighth in the Western Conference, but all seven wins have come at home at Jeld-Wen Field. They are 0-11-4 on the road in 2012 and haven’t won away from home since October 2, 2011 in a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps – a span of 17 straight winless matches.
“We have to take advantage of the fact that they have not been a good road team and make sure that it doesn’t change tomorrow,” Schmid said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 pm Pacific with national television coverage on ESPN and the local radio broadcast on 770 KTTH AM.