A bigger-than-normal crowd will watch a bigger-than-normal soccer match today as the Portland Timbers meet Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.
The Timbers are out of MLS playoff contention. However, a win or draw would send them home with the 2012 Cascadia Cup.
“This is their season,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “This is their MLS Cup. This is their championship game, whatever you want to call it. This is a culmination point for them. They weren’t in a position to win the Cascadia Cup last year, they haven’t played a Cascadia Cup game on the road this year, and so they’re in good position to win it this year.”
The Sounders should be able to match the Timbers’ intensity because they’re playing for even more.
A win today would push them one point ahead of Portland in the Cascadia standings, with only the Timbers’ Oct. 21 match at Vancouver remaining.
However, the Sounders say that their higher goal is climbing in the MLS Western Conference standings.
“We talked a number of weeks ago and set goals for ourselves, and one of those was to have that No. 2 spot in the West,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “That’s still within our grasp, and that’s something that we really want. If we can (avoid the loser-out match between the No. 4 and 5 seeds) I think that will benefit us in the long run.”
The Sounders (49 points) are assured of at least fourth place in the West, but passing Real Salt Lake (55) and Los Angeles (50) for second remains within reach – especially with RSL visiting Seattle next week and the regular-season finale at Los Angeles on Oct. 28.
“Every game is going to be a game that’s going to require concentration and attention from the team, which is good because it keeps you sharp going into the playoffs,” Schmid said. “There’s still a lot at stake in terms of seeding and where you end up. Everybody wants to avoid that fourth place because you don’t want to play that extra game.”
With more than 66,000 tickets already sold, this projects as the seventh-largest crowd for an MLS game, the second-largest for a stand-alone MLS game, and the largest Seattle crowd for an MLS game. It could even top the current Northwest soccer record of 67,052 that watched the Sounders and Manchester United last year.
The Sounders want to send those fans home happy.
And Schmid was even willing to use them to add some fuel to the rivalry.
“It makes a tremendous statement for the city of Seattle because our fans are able to come out in numbers,” he said. “They’re supportive. They’re going to be loud, they’re going to be boisterous and they’re here in numbers, which is a big thing.”
Sounders FC neither confirmed nor denied forward Eddie Johnson’s tweet that he has been called in by the USA national team. Club officials said the roster will be announced by U.S. Soccer on Monday.
Johnson would become the third Sounder to leave the club for international duty this week, joining midfielder Mario Martinez (Honduras) and defender Adam Johansson (Sweden).
Schmid said only Johansson would have to miss the Sounders’ home match against Salt Lake on Oct. 17.
PORTLAND TIMBERS (7-15-9; 30 POINTS) AT SOUNDERS FC (13-7-10; 49)
6 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: ESPN. RADIO: 770-AM.
CLUB LEADERS: For Portland – G 7, Kris Boyd; A 6, Eric Alexander; S 63, Boyd; SOG 28, Boyd; GAA 2.21, Joseph Bendik. For Seattle – G 13, Eddie Johnson; A 13, Mauro Rosales; S 108, Fredy Montero; SOG 39, Montero; GAA 0.79, Michael Gspurning.
HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle leads the all-time series 40-28-10. The MLS series is even, 1-1-2 overall and 0-0-1 at CenturyLink. This season, the Timbers lead 1-0-1, with both games in Portland.
NOTES: Portland (2-0-2) clinches the Cascadia Cup with a win or a draw. A Sounders (1-1-3) win would send them into the lead, with one Cup match remaining: Oct. 21, when the Timbers visit Vancouver (0-2-3). Portland is one up on Seattle in the goal-differential tiebreaker. ... One of the largest crowds in MLS history is expected: more than 66,000. ... The Timbers are 0-11-4 on the road this season. Seattle is 9-4-1 at home. ... Portland is winless over its past five games (0-2-3); Seattle is winless over its past three (0-1-2). ... The Timbers are 18th in MLS in goals scored and 17th in goals allowed. ... Bright Dike has scored in back-to-back games for Portland. ... Gspurning leads MLS in goals-against average and winning percentage (.706). Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts has been out since suffering a shoulder injury in the Sept. 15 game against the Sounders. He is listed as probable. ... Boyd (adductor) is out. ... Seattle midfielder Mario Martinez in unavailable due to duty with the Honduras national team. ... Montero and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso are one caution away from yellow-card suspension. ... At four locations around the stadium, season-ticket holders and Alliance members can vote on whether to retain general manager Adrian Hanauer. ... Former Sounder Roger Levesque will be awarded the Golden Scarf before the match. ... The referee is Jair Marrufo.
QUOTABLE: “We know they’re not as good on the road as they are at home. … They have a smaller field at home. Obviously, they have tremendous support at home that gives them a big boost. … So, we have to take advantage of the fact that they have not been a good road team and make sure it doesn’t change.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid about the Timbers.
NEXT: vs. Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m. Oct. 17, CenturyLink Field.firstname.lastname@example.org Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com @donruiztnt