Sounders trail Timbers as rivalry’s heat rises

Sounders forward Lamar Neagle, second from right, celebrates his goal against the Timbers earlier this season.
Sounders forward Lamar Neagle, second from right, celebrates his goal against the Timbers earlier this season. The Associated Press

Before flying home from the Seattle Sounders’ midweek match in Honduras, goalkeeper Troy Perkins fired a shot across the bow of the club’s next opponent: the archrival Portland Timbers.

“We’re learning to fight now as a group,” said Perkins, a former Timber. “And we’ve got to go and we’ve got to really take it to Portland and show that even through they’re ahead of us, they don’t deserve to be there.”

The social media reaction revealed that Portland supporters heard — and certainly the Timbers themselves.

When the Sounders returned to training Friday, coach Sigi Schmid implied feelings are always so high in the derby that the comment probably can’t inflame things much.

“Right now they’re ahead in the standings: They’ve got more points than us,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “That’s reality. It doesn’t matter what we think: It’s a matter of what we do on the field.”

Perkins seems unlikely to be among those stepping onto the pitch for the Timbers’ 2 p.m. Sunday visit.

Schmid went with a mostly reserve lineup in the 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League loss to CD Olimpia at midweek, increasing his availability of first-choice players for this return to Major League Soccer. Most of the usual starters didn’t even step on the plane.

And when the traveling and non-traveling Sounders reunited Friday, long-missing players such as Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso and Chad Barrett were among them. Schmid said each is improving from hamstring injuries, but added he didn’t know which — if any — would be ready by the weekend. His only certainty seemed to be that midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz — signed at the end of the summer transfer window — isn’t yet ready for his MLS debut.

Also back training was midfielder Marco Pappa who came off the bench at Olimpia — his first appearance since completing the league mandated substance-abuse-prevention program.

“It was OK,” Schmid said of Pappa’s return. “Difficult game to play, obviously, in Honduras. But for him to get back out on the field was important. I had to play him in a little bit of a different role in that game. But it was good to get him back on the field.”

Schmid started the same lineup in Honduras that he had in the Sounders’ 2-1 home win over Olimpia the week before. However, those lineups included only one regular starter: forward Lamar Neagle. That decision drew questions from the Honduran media after the match.

“We have a lot of respect for Olimpia and their team and their quality,” Schmid told them. “So the team that we put out was in no way disrespect for them. … We brought the players that we could bring. We’ve had a number of injuries and a lot of players coming off of injuries, and there was just no way that we could bring those players — not without the risk of them getting injured again. And we have important league matches coming up and we’re in a fight there.”

The Sounders have fallen into seventh place, three points behind sixth-place San Jose, which beat Los Angeles on Friday.tie with San Jose for sixth and seventh place in MLS’ Western Conference — The top six teams in each conference advances to the playoffs. a crucial dividing line as the sixth-place finisher makes the playoffs, while the seventh-place finisher stays home.

Portland enters the weekend fourth in the West, five points ahead of Seattle.

The clubs also are competing in the Cascadia Cup race, which Vancouver leads at 2-1-2, followed by Seattle, 2-2-0 and Portland, 1-2-2.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808