The Seattle Sounders know that when the rival Portland Timbers come to town on Sunday (7:30 p.m. PT; ESPN, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS), the Rave Green are going to have a proverbial target on their backs.
The Sounders enter Sunday fresh off an emotionally exuberant week, one which saw them set an MLS record by winning three road matches in the span of seven days. Seattle then tied an MLS record with six players starting in an All-Star Game win over the best of Mexico’s Liga MX.
Portland, meanwhile, comes into the weekend reeling. The Timbers are winless in their last three contests, including a 6-2 humbling by the Sounders at Providence Park, and are currently outside the playoff picture.
But the Sounders’ coaches and players are well aware of what kind of mayhem this rivalry can produce and that form and records tend to be rendered irrelevant.
“I think the emotional uptick of a week where we went away from home and got nine points in seven days, which was a remarkable achievement — it was an emotional week,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “My very strong message today was we need to make sure that we’re focused. We’re absolutely laser focused… I’m trying to cover all the bases and let them know that we don’t want to fall into any sort of trap game.”
Seattle has shown a bite and ruthlessness in its last four matches that it hadn’t since the beginning of the campaign, which led to an MLS-record unbeaten start. Much of that has been buoyed by the return of captain Nicolás Lodeiro from injury and midfielder Cristian Roldan from international duty.
The genesis of this four-match winning streak in all competitions began with a 3-0 romp over Liga MX’s Tigres in the quarterfinals of the Leagues Cup.
“The truth is that before that Tigres game the team felt a drop because of the long season, playing many games,” Lodeiro said in Spanish. “The team was short-handed — we had a lot of injuries, so it was normal for the team to feel worn. I think the match against Tigres was a mental push because it was against a big Mexican rival, with our home fans, and a beautiful victory. It gives us a bit of confidence for what’s left. It doesn’t guarantee anything to win a few games, but we have to keep moving forward because there’s a lot of games left.”
The Sounders know, too, that the Timbers will be out for revenge and trying to put the gut punch from Aug. 15 behind them. Despite winning five of the last six trips to Portland, Seattle is winless against the Timbers at home since 2018.
“[Giovani Savarese] is a very good coach, and I know that he’s going to be super motivated in this game,” said Schmetzer.” Whatever tactics, whatever lineup, whatever he does, I know he’ll have his team prepared.”
Added Lodeiro: “You know the “clasicos” are always difficult matches, special matches. It doesn’t matter whether a team shows up good or bad, that match is different. Portland knows it…It’s a match that everyone wants to win, and we have to be prepared and not be over-confident because of what we did. If we’re over-confident there’s a big price to pay. We have to be focused all 90 minutes.”
Sunday’s match will be highlighted by the sporting event of the summer, a doubleheader at Lumen Field that will be kicked off by OL Reign taking on the Portland Thorns before Sounders-Timbers closes the festivities. The PNW Experience will also celebrate the life and legacy of Seattle music icon Jimi Hendrix.
“It’s going to be a big event,” said Schmetzer. “What I hope is that the fans get treated to two fantastic games. I’m certainly going to support [Head Coach] Laura [Harvey] and support the Reign, and hopefully [they] win. It would be really good to start that day off with a win, and then I’ll try and follow it up with a win as well.”