The reasons for the Seattle Sounders for wanting to defeat the Portland Timbers are obvious and many to those familiar with the MLS rivarly. And in case you need more about that, let Stefan Frei describe the importance of Sunday’s 6:30 p.m. game at CenturyLink Field.
“The reason why it’s the biggest game because if we win then we win the Cascadia Cup,” Sounders goalkeeper said. “That’s what our focus should be on, winning trophies. Yes it’s a trophy for the fans but ultimately you’re here to win things and so this is an opportunity to do that.
“That’s what I would want our players to focus on. It’s an opportunity that you don’t get too many times a year: Three, four times max? This is it, we should be happy for it, we should be ready for it.”
The Sounders, winners of the 2018 Cascadia Cup, can retain those bragging rights for another year should they defeat the Timbers. After a busy week with games against Atlanta last Sunday and Wednesday’s international friendly against Borussia Dortmund, the Sounders can now focus on their longtime rivals from the south.
The last couple of games between these teams haven’t gone the Sounders way.
Back in June, the Timbers faced the Sounders in an U.S. Open Cup match in Tacoma at Cheney Stadium. Two goals by Brian Fernandez helped Portland take a 2-1 victory.
And there’s the Western Conference finals series last year that Portland won in dramatic fashion by defeating the Sounders in penalty kicks.
The Timbers enter the game looking to climb back into the playoff picture. The 2018 MLS Cup finalists started 0-5-1 and had to play their first 12 games on the road because of the renovation of Providence Park.
They rebounded four out of their next six games and since returning to Providence Park on June 1 vs. LAFC, the Timbers have a record of 3-2-1 and are in a dog fight for the sixth and seventh seeds in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer isn’t surprised by the turnaround and kept it pretty simple when pointing out Portland’s return to form.
“Gio (Savarese) is a good coach,” Brian Schmetzer said. “They were re-modeling their stadium and so there’s a lot of road games and we all know how hard it is to win on the road in MLS. That’s part of the reason for their slow start, they added a designated player. So there’s a reason why people should watch out for Portland down the stretch.”
That designated player is Fernandez, who has helped bolster a Timbers scoring attack. In 10 appearances with the Timbers, Fernandez has scored nine goals.
Schmetzer noted is that the last two Timbers opponents (Colorado and Orlando) sat back and weren’t as active in attempting to contain the Timbers attack. Schmetzer doesn’t expect it’s a strategy he’ll use.
“It’s challenging sometimes to play like that but that happens in MLS sometimes,” he said. “We — I’ve been guilty of it sometimes, so how teams tactically set up their group for various locations, travel, I would never second guess any of the coaches that played against Portland. ...
“At the end of the day, this game isn’t going to manifest itself like that because we’re not gonna sit back.”
Schmetzer revealed that Sounders midfielder Henry Wingo is currently being looked at for a possible loan to Norway’s Molde FK. According Schmetzer, he believes it was a good opportunity for both the club and the player and hopes it works out for both parties.
“Where he was on the depth chart, I felt that it was a good opportunity for him,” Schmetzer said. “Look, if something happens and he breaks through and we retain his rights then that’s a good thing for both the player and the club.”