Timbers, Sounders look to set early tone

Getting crowd going -- or keeping it quiet -- is the key

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter



While fans of the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders stew about the result after 90 minutes of soccer on Saturday, the coaches are paying attention to what happens at the start of the Cascadia Cup match.

“Last time we played in Portland I didn’t think we were as focused as we needed to be in the first 15 minutes, and that’s something that we have to correct,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said.

This will be the third visit by the Sounders to Jeld-Wen Field since the Timbers joined Major League Soccer. Portland scored first in each of the first two, including twice in the first 25 minutes of its 2-1 win on June 24 — a start that further energized the already revved up fans.

“Especially when it’s a rivalry game and a team’s playing at home, they usually come out with a lot of emotion,” Schmid said. “The crowd’s behind them and that’s sort of like a wave that carries them through those first 15-20 minutes. So we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for that and we’re alert and prepared and intense.”

The Timbers are just plain more difficult to beat at home. They have not won away from Jeld-Wen Field this season, but have a seven wins and three ties in 14 home MLS games this season.

“It’s a special place to play,” Schmid said of Jeld-Wen Field, where last season the Sounders rallied twice in a 3-2 win. “Their

crowd is tremendous and very supportive and it always helps them and gives them an edge.”

The Timbers’ first challenge on Saturday will be to stay composed enough to turn that edge into a real advantage.

“You want players not to get caught up in the emotion, to have the individual confidence and the collective confidence to play the game to the best of their ability,” Timbers general manager and interim coach Gavin Wilkinson said. “The first 15 minutes, we would like to play the game in their half and try to dictate the rhythm and the tempo of the game. That’s to try to give players the confidence to play in a big environment.”

The Sounders are in the playoff chase, and need a win to continue their climb toward the top of the Western Conference. But this match might be the most important of this disappointing season in Portland, since a Timbers win would secure the Cascadia Cup trophy for success against rivals Seattle and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

“It’s one of the most exciting things to be a part of,” Portland winger Sal Zizzo said. “Someone will always remember if you score a goal against Seattle, or you win the Cascadia Cup that year, even though the season didn’t go well, maybe.”

NOTES — Roger Levesque, who has been a thorn in the Timbers’ side since joining the Sounders in 2003 when both teams were in the second division, has retired. … Saturday’s match will be televised by NBC, the first time since 2008 that a MLS regular-season match has been carried by one of the four major broadcast networks. … Jose Valencia, the Colombian forward who had knee surgery in preseason, might play in Sunday’s reserve match between the Timbers and Sounders. It is the final reserve match of the season for the Timbers. … Darlington Nagbe (11) and Kris Boyd (15) are among the top-25 best selling replica jerseys in MLS. David Beckham tops the list.