I'll be back with some updates and reactions later. But for now, here are some early pre-Portland notes from the club:
Seattle Visits Portland in Derby Match on Sunday
North America's most spirited soccer rivalry meets the light of midday on Sunday afternoon when Seattle Sounders FC invade the ground of the Portland Timbers for the third Cascadia Cup fixture of 2011. First kick is 1 p.m. PT and ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes will televise the match nationally from JELD-WEN Field.
Sounders FC will turn around and play a quarterfinal Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game three days later. They host the L.A. Galaxy at Starfire Sports Stadium on July 13 at 7 p.m. PT.
The Rave Green are on the verge of an 11-day test of stamina an depth. Four matches will be played over the stretch that begins in the Rose City and concludes with the Manchester United friendly on July 20.
Seattle (8-4-8, 32 points) rides south with a club record seven-match unbeaten streak (4-0-3) in MLS, eight games in all competitions and five games undefeated on the road following the scoreless draw against the Galaxy on July 4. The total of 32 points is third in the league.
Sounders FC are 3-2-5 away this season and have fared well in matinees, going 2-0-1. Their record through 20 matches is the best in the club's three-year existence.
Portland (5-8-3, 18 points) is searching for its first win since May 21. Since then the Timbers have gone 0-5-1, including a 2-1 home loss to Sporting Kansas City last week. Since winning their first five matches at JELD-WEN Field they have lost three and drawn one. Portland hosts Mexico's Club America in a friendly on Thursday night.
In the first meeting between Seattle and Portland on May 14, Alvaro Fernandez staked the home side to a 52nd minute lead and Mamadou Danso answered in the 65th, heading home a free kick.
The Wheels on the BusEach of the first 40 Sounders FC road matches has involved all the inconveniences of air travel. The early airport arrivals, security checks, middle seat assignments and the waiting, always waiting. Not so this week. The Rave Green will ride down Interstate 5 in comfort aboard a chartered coach. At 151 miles, Portland is not the nearest destination (Vancouver is 118), yet it's the shortest trip in terms of transit time-under three hours.
Prior to the Timbers and Whitecaps FC joining MLS, the shortest travel flights were to San Jose (713 miles) and Salt Lake (726). Later this month Sounders FC will take their longest trip to date for a competitive match. They face San Francisco FC of Panama on July 26 in the opening match of the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round. Panama City is 3685 air miles from Seattle-49 percent more than the farthest destination in MLS.
Let There Be ElectricityFor those who like their Rave Green turned up a notch, the next handful of matches will make them merry. Sounders FC are in the midst of a wearing the Electricity third kit four times in five matches. They wore it in L.A. and will once more in Portland. The bright yellow strip is a standard for Open Cup and friendlies, so it will be donned again and again for the Galaxy quarterfinal and Manchester United on July 20.
Thanks for the MemoriesPerhaps no other venue holds more vivid memories for longtime Sounders fans than the pitch in Portland. JELD-WEN Field and its previous incarnations are thick with history for Seattle.
Seattle was the opposition in Portland's first and last matches of the NASL era. The Sounders won both, 1-nil, at Civic Stadium. Jimmy Gabriel's penalty was the difference in a May 1975 downpour and Mark Peterson sealed the deal and clinched the Western Division championship under an August sun in 1982.
In between the NASL Sounders played in the playoffs for the first time in 1975 (falling 2-1 in overtime, and then seeing the field overrun with fans). Two years later, in 1977, Seattle advanced to the NASL title match for the first time, with thousands of fans following the lads to Portland for the final. The game, played against the New York Cosmos, attracted a record crowd of 35,548. It marked the final competitive performance by the legendary Pele.
In 1985, FC Seattle and FC Portland played the inaugural match in the Western Soccer Alliance (forerunner to the A-League and USL-1) at Civic, with Seattle winning, 6-1. Brian Schmetzer scored one of Seattle's goals. Schmetzer was the USL Sounders coach in 2004 and 2005, when Seattle eliminated the Timbers in the first round of the playoffs.
Keller in PortlandKasey Keller played a key role in putting Portland back on the America soccer map. During his freshman season at the University of Portland, Keller established records for shutouts (14.5) and GAA (0.33) that still stand today, and the Pilots advanced to the NCAA semifinals for the first time, finishing 21-1-0. He would go on to become a three-time All-American and two-time MAC or Hermann trophy finalist.
Keller was a crowd favorite when he started in goal for both U.S. National Team matches played at then-Civic Stadium, most notably the 1997 World Cup qualifier win over Costa Rica.
For Sounders FC, Keller is 1-0-1 in the Rose City in a pair of Open Cup third-round games the past two seasons. A year ago he made six saves in regulation and overtime then stopped two penalties in the tiebreaker. Last week he earned his 27th career MLS shutout at L.A. while starting for the 75th consecutive match, dating back to April 25, 2009. It's the longest current streak in MLS.