A tie at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night will earn the Portland Timbers a trophy.
But a draw probably won’t earn the Timbers and their loyal fans many bragging rights.
Should the Timbers and Sounders FC play to a draw before a crowd anticipated to reach 66,000, Portland will claim the Cascadia Cup. The supporter-driven trophy goes to the club with the most success in matches featuring the Timbers, Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
With the benefit of four home games, Portland leads the Cup standings with two wins and two ties. A Seattle win on Sunday would push the Sounders to the top of the standings, and likely mean Portland must win on Oct. 21 in Vancouver to claim the trophy.
But the Timbers have more to gain than just the rivalry trophy. Portland hasn’t won away from home all season, and this is one of their two remaining away games.
“A draw would get the job done and it would be satisfying. We will accept that with a good performance,” Timbers general manager and interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson said. “… but you go into the game trying to win.”
The Timbers are 7-15-9, eighth among nine teams in the Western Conference.
“We need to win on the road. We need to solve that problem,” Wilkinson said. “It’s been something that’s been hanging over us all year and we need to get rid of it before next year.”
Besides, Wilkinson said that shutting out the Sounders at home is a tall order. So sitting back to play for a draw from the start would be problematic.
“You have to go into Seattle expecting to score. Because they have scored a lot of goals at home (22 goals in 14 home matches),” Wilkinson said. “To get a result we have to put them under pressure, we have to create chances, we have to put our chances away.”
The Sounders (13-7-10) have clinched a playoff spot but with four games left are battling for a higher playoff seed. Plus, they want to keep the Cascadia Cup they won last season.
Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury said the value of a draw is in the back of players minds entering the match.
“I think for us it’s (about) the way we start the game. We know there’s going to be a lot of emotion, a lot of energy to start. It’s probably going to be a little hectic,” Jewsbury said. “So we want to try to settle down into the game as best we can at the beginning. And if we can score the first goal and kind of quiet the crowd, that would definitely be to our advantage.”
More prominent on the mind of Jewsbury and his teammates is the zero road wins for the Timbers in 2012.
“The reality is we don’t want to go down in history as a team that didn’t get a road win on the season,” Jewsbury said.