When the Seattle Sounders travel to Providence Park on Sunday (7:30 p.m. PT; ESPN2, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM), it will be the third time in less than a month they square off against the Portland Timbers.
Seattle defeated Portland 1-0 on May 27 at CenturyLink Field in their first regular-season meeting of the year before winning 2-1 in U.S. Open Cup play on June 13 at Starfire Sports in Tukwila. The Open Cup match, though, featured lineups littered with USL players and first-team reserves. When the two sides battle again on a blistering evening in Oregon — kickoff was originally slated for 1 p.m. PT but was pushed back due to impending triple-digit temperatures — expect the same type of gritty, no-holds-barred encounter that has been the trademark of this rivalry.
“I’m expecting another tough game,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer on Friday. “The game up here was tough. We won 1-0 and Cristian [Roldan] scored that goal early and we were able to hang on, but it wasn’t without a little bit of strife and Portland putting us under pressure at times…We have three games in eight days, it’ll be a high-intensity match.”
The Sounders had a forgettable first half the last time they played in Providence Park, falling behind 4-0 last August. Schmetzer was quick to dismiss any notion that 2016 would have any impact on Sunday — “That’s last year,” he said — and ensures his side will be fully ready.
Playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro agreed with Schmetzer’s sentiments, but he’s only looking back on last year’s performance as a tool to get better for this weekend.
“We have to learn from what we did last year and do better,” Lodeiro said through a translator. “They’re difficult games and we need to win.”
The Sounders should have a healthy and solid squad available, as Brad Evans and Joevin Jones each began on the bench midweek against Orlando City SC in order to be 100 percent fit at Portland. Seattle could have used both, though, as it conceded an equalizer at the death to drop two points at home, something the team was committed to correcting.
“One of the hallmarks of this group is that they’re mentally strong,” said Schmetzer. “They would much rather play earlier than let that sit for a full week. One day, two days’ shorter rest is always good.”
Schmetzer is confident that if his team abides by two main principles, defending well and finishing chances, then going into a hostile environment, and one without a suspended Sebastian Blanco and Roy Miller to boot, should not matter come Sunday.
“We’re a good team,” Schmetzer said. “There were spells against Orlando and the last couple of games where we’d play some good stuff. I think we’ve been a little inconsistent this year. [Play] good defense and put your chances away, and hopefully we’ll start stringing together some good results.”