Well, it's rivalry week, and Portland Timbers coach John Spencer just took the opportunity to fire a little shot across the bow of Sounders fans by predicting the "second-best atmosphere in the country" when the Timbers visit Qwest Field on Saturday.
Here's part of what Spencer had to say this afternoon in a conference call with media that cover the Sounders:
I think guys obviously focus on the games just as they come. But as a staff – myself and the coaching staff – we obviously have a longer-term picture than the players do. The players just want to go out and win the first game that’s in front of them. The owner here – Merritt Paulson – is very very ambitious and he’s given us the financial backing to go out and give us good players and all the tools necessary to being success to the club. For us, of course, we know it’s a big game. The players know that. The history behind the game excites the players, it excites the staff and I’m pretty sure it’s probably going to be the best – the second best – atmosphere in the country – second to Jeld-Wen Field – when the game kicks off.
That said, Spencer did at least give the Sounders some praise as providing proof for his young team that expansion sides can experience immediate success in MLS:
First and foremost, Seattle is our fiercest rivals: We know that. But we still can’t hide away from the fact that they’ve done a tremendous job there from top to bottom, and you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. So for us, what I think we did take from them was that as an expansion team you can have success in the first year. That was probably the one and only thing that we did take from them. And I feel like I’ve been around the league as a player and then as an assistant coach and now as a head coach, that I knew what types of players we could bring in to be successful in Major League Soccer. And then obviously myself and (general manager/technical director Gavin Wilkinson) did a lot of scouting and overseas scouting and brought in some players that we felt could merge into Major League Soccer’s mentality and the way that we wanted to play. I think that … yeah, we modeled ourselves after the success that Seattle brought to themselves just through hard work on the field, and that was the one ingredient I think was from them to this day: They have a great mentality to what’s happening on the field.