Osvaldo Alonso

Rivalry week begins for Sounders as trip to Portland is only days away

What motivates Sounders FC most for the match this weekend against the Portland Timbers?

It is the first match in the Cascadia Cup battle among Seattle, Portland and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and is easily the most talked-about rivalry in Major League Soccer. So how much does Seattle look back on the last meeting with the Timbers when Portland ousted Sounders FC from the MLS Cup Playoffs last November?

“It’s a rivalry and it’s a rivalry game. Is it November? Is it the Open Cup from a few years ago when we beat them? It’s all together,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “For sure, at this stage, for us it’s about how we respond to our last game as much as anything. But it’s a rivalry game so it’s going to be intense. It’s going to be a usual Portland-Seattle game. And yeah, last November stays with us a little bit.”

The names on the backs of the jerseys may have changed a bit for both sides, with two former Sounders in Steve Zakuani and Andrew Weber featuring prominently for the Timbers while Portland’s first-ever MLS goalscorer, Kenny Cooper, now dons the Rave Green. However, the intensity that ensues on the field and among the supporters in the stands doesn’t waver.

The atmosphere at training may not have changed yet for Seattle, but with the day off on Wednesday emotions will certainly start to heighten when the team is back on the field on Thursday. By the time the players get on the bus on Friday and make the trek south on I-5, they will know exactly what’s at stake when the Sounders and Timbers meet.

“I think when it gets close things will start to feel like a different atmosphere,” Seattle forward Lamar Neagle said. “This is always one of the games that you look forward to. It’s just going to be exciting.”

However, nobody on either team needs any crash courses on the rivalry. By the time they’ve signed with the club, they’ve been educated about the importance of the derby.

“If we have to motivate a Seattle player for a Seattle-Portland match then he hasn’t really identified with the spirit of the club,” Schmid said. “I think most of our guys know what these games mean and what the rivalry is. It’s something that’s always going to be there because of the historical tradition between these two cities.”

Jalil Anibaba has only seen the rivalry between Portland and Seattle on television and in preseason matches. But he is very matter-of-fact when asked if he has heard about the rivalry.

“If you haven’t you’re dead,” he said, without a hint of sarcasm. “We’re ready and focused for Portland. We’re all geared in to the task and we’re ready.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s match at Providence Park is scheduled for 12 pm PT with national television coverage on NBC Sports.