The Seattle Sounders – Portland Timbers rivalry is unparalleled in American soccer.
On Friday, the Sounders will take on the Timbers in the 116th edition of this storied matchup (7:25 p.m. PT; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, 93.3 KJR FM, El Rey 1360AM), dating back to the NASL days in 1975. A contentious series defined by enmity between two clubs and two cities, this match carries extra weight as both teams are vying for spots in the 2022 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Obviously it’s a huge rivalry game on top of everything else that’s going on," said winger Jordan Morris. "Whenever you play Portland, you have that extra motivation to try and get a win for the fans, for the club. For us, it’s really just a focus of trying to get three points and climbing the table.”
According to Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, a man who has been a key figure in this derby across the NASL, USL and Major League Soccer eras, all the players on the roster understand the gravity of this matchup.
“Everybody that comes here understands that this is the rivalry,” he said. “There’s no other [MLS] rivalry that has the history – the length of time, the amount of games, the magnitude of the games – than Seattle-Portland.”
Seattle enters the match on the back of a chaotic 3-3 draw against the LA Galaxy last weekend, a match that saw the Rave Green overturn a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 lead, only for the hosts to level with a late penalty kick. The ending was certainly deflating, but the manner in which the Sounders created chances in a new 5-3-2 formation certainly creates some momentum heading into this contentious rivalry match against Portland.
“This game on Friday is absolutely massive,” added Morris. “We need to take the positives from that game in LA – even though it felt like a loss a little bit – and keep building on that.”
The Sounders and Timbers head into the weekend level on points (33), with Seattle sitting 9th in the Western Conference, one spot ahead of Portland. Both teams are one point out of the playoffs, making this a crucial six-point match.
The Sounders will look to star forward Raúl Ruidíaz in order to secure a result down in Providence Park. Seattle’s Peruvian striker loves playing against the Timbers, recording 10 goals and two assists in 12 matches across the regular season and playoffs.
“Raúl is building off a goal and an assist in the last game,” said Schmetzer. “He’s always been a big-time player. In big games he always shows up. I think that’s why he’s had success [against the Timbers] because every game against Portland is a big match. It’s a fierce rivalry and he gets himself up for that.”