The excitement from Tuesday night’s dramatic comeback win over Tigres in the quarterfinals of CONCACAF Champions League has barely had time to settle, but already the Sounders FC has shifted its attention to a new goal. Saturday at CenturyLink Field they will host the Portland Timbers in the first of three matches between the longtime rivals from the Pacific Northwest
And while it might ordinarily take some time to change the focus to a league match after a historic victory like the one the Sounders had on Tuesday, this one is different.
“Maybe the opponent helps us. We all know what it means for the city and the fans to play against Portland,” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “Maybe it’s a good thing we are playing against Portland and not any other team.”
Dating back to 1975 when the Timbers joined the Sounders in the North American Soccer League and extending through four leagues, the derby between the Seattle and Portland clubs has been the fiercest of rivalries over the years.
In recent years, that fervor between the two cities has only grown as attendance has spiked in Portland and Seattle when the Timbers and Sounders meet.
That history, both distant and recent, means Schmid has very little he needs to say to get his team focused on the next opponent ahead of Seattle on the schedule.
“You can talk about it all you want, but it’s just a matter of the team setting it in their mind that it’s time to work again,” Schmid said, noting that the Sounders are more concerned with who will play than how tuned in they will be. “Portland’s a big game. They’ll get up for it. We just have to see where we are with our injuries and who steps on the field.”
Against Tigres on Tuesday, both Brad Evans and Mauro Rosales left the match early with injuries. Their availability for Saturday’s match will likely be determined when the team resumes training on Thursday. Regardless of the roster of available players, though, the Sounders are brimming with confidence after their victory.
“The main thing is about us believing in ourselves and believing in everyone in this locker room,” forward Eddie Johnson said. “We know we are a team that is good at home and we create chances, but it is a matter of putting them away. It does give us a good sense of confidence in as far as being front of the goal and taking chances.”
Gspurning, meanwhile, is confident that the momentum from the second half of Tuesday’s match can only carry over into the rivalry match.
“We have to take the energy from today to the match Saturday. There are no excuses on Saturday,” Gspurning said after the match. “We have to be ready and I’m pretty confident we will be.”
Saturday will mark the 80th all-time contest between the two teams, with Seattle holding a distinct advantage at 41-28-10. Kickoff is slated for 5 pm PT with national television coverage on NBC Sports and the local radio broadcast on KIRO Radio 97.3.