FS1 broadcaster John Strong previews SEAvPOR, says Seattle Sounders are a team transformed

The energy surrounding the Seattle Sounders training sessions this week was palpable, and it should be: it’s rivalry week in the Emerald City. Ahead of Sunday’s Cascadia matchup at CenturyLink Field – the only regular season meeting between the Sounders and Portland Timbers in Seattle in 2016 – caught up with FS1 broadcaster John Strong to preview the nationally televised fixture (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM).

What a Difference a Month Can Make

It’s a pretty amazing contrast because we saw the Sounders almost exactly a month apart, with the first time being down in Portland last month and then last weekend against Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field. It was an impressive turn around. In July, that seemed like the low point for a Sounders team that seemed to just be missing that spirit and fight that you used to see even in the ups and downs of a regular season.

There’s a combination of factors. Obviously Nicolás Lodeiro is part of that. He’s brought a great energy to the group and he’s not weighed down by the results that have come this year. The quality of his play on the field has lifted the quality of Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris and really, everyone around him.

I think you get a little bit of a boost when a coaching change is made, either because guys want a new voice or there are subtle differences in practices. Guys may also realize that there’s a larger cleaning of house coming in the offseason and they want to step up.

This is an entirely different-looking Sounders team and while the degree of difficult is very high and the margin of error is very low if they are looking to make a run, I think there’s a very good case to be made for the Sounders to make this run but they have to keep it going.

The Best Rivalry in MLS? Try Again

I’m horribly biased, because I’ve been living this rivalry for most of my life. Where I am a homer, though, is that I believe this is the best rivalry in American soccer. I tend to call it the great American soccer rivalry, and not the best rivalry in MLS, because it predates that. It transcends that.

It’s not an MLS rivalry. It’s much bigger than just these two teams. Being in MLS has amplified it because all the great games from the 70s and 2000s didn’t get the attention that these matches do now, but they’re a part of it.

There have been a lot of regular season matches between these two teams that while yes, it’s a rivalry and yes, it’s emotional, there aren’t really larger ramifications to the match.

This is rare. This is one of the few times where we’ll see these two teams meet in matches (Sunday at CenturyLink Field, Aug. 28 at Providence Park) where there is real significance to it when it comes to the standings and the context of the two teams’ seasons.

There’s a big opportunity here and this is the only game in Seattle this year, fully open stadium, all these things wrapped into one. They give us the opportunity for something really special. There have been really exciting games before, but they don’t really resonate into the next week. These two back-to-back matches can have a huge effect when all is said and done at the end of the regular season.



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