It’s Rivalry Week across Major League Soccer.
The league’s clustering of grudge matches began with Toronto and Montreal in the 401 Derby and Dallas and Houston in the Texas Derby, and continues Saturday with San Jose and Los Angeles in the California Clasico.
However, the week brings little new for the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, who meet for the second time in 13 days on Sunday in Oregon. And — if possible — the weekend meeting may be even more intense than usual, thanks in part to the results of that earlier game, when the Timbers eliminated the defending-champion Sounders from the U.S. Open Cup.
“We’re still gutted about last week,” midfielder Andy Rose said Thursday after training at Starfire Sports Complex. “Open Cup is something we take a lot of pride in on this club. … It’s the shame the way it happened: all the drama. But we try to put that behind us the best we can. Obviously, the main goal now is MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield … so we’re obviously very motivated for the match.”
Portland took the Open Cup match, 3-1, scoring two goals in extra time as the Sounders slipped from one man down to two men down to three men down. Brad Evans had been banished with a second yellow card in the 69th minute. Micheal Azira received a straight red for a dangerous tackle in the 112th minute. And Clint Dempsey followed him a minute later for complaining to the referee, taking his notebook, tearing it and flinging it.
The direct repercussions of that will linger through this Timbers rematch, and literally for years to come. On Sunday, Dempsey will serve the last of a three-game suspension levied by MLS. However, this week the Open Cup added a suspension of two tournaments or six games — whichever is longer — assuring that Dempsey won’t play in U.S. Soccer’s national club championship until 2018 at the earliest.
Dempsey tweeted an apology for his actions, but has not been made available to local media since the incident.
“They made their decision, and we’ll live with it,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said.
Schmid also offered some improved personnel news, saying he expects forward Chad Barrett and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso to return from their hamstring injuries. The status of Evans and No. 2 left back Leo Gonzalez, who are recovering from groin injuries, will be determined after practice Saturday. Obafemi Martins remains out with a groin injury.
The Sounders remain tied atop the MLS Western Conference, but their first back-to-back losses have allowed the fourth-place Timbers to pull within four points.
Seattle also leads the Cascadia Cup race at 2-0-0, followed by Vancouver at 1-1-1 and Portland at 0-2-1.
That’s a lot of added incentive for clubs whose default position is dislike.
“It’s Seattle-Portland,” central defender Chad Marshall said. “I think every game is chippy. Even in preseason, this game is not a friendly. It’s heated and you want to win every time you play your rival. No matter who’s out or whatever, you want to win that game. I’m sure that chippiness will carry over, and there will be some kicks and people will have some choice words from each other. But that’s the rivalry.”