Timbers don’t plan on playing for tie against Sounders

Porter wants Portland to stay aggressive

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

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BEAVERTON, Ore. — A tie over 90 minutes on Thursday would be enough to get the Portland Timbers past the Seattle Sounders and into the Western Conference final series.

Thanks to a 2-1 win at Seattle on Saturday, Portland will advance in the Major League Soccer playoffs as long as it doesn’t lose the return leg in the two-match series that concludes at Jeld-Wen Field.

But Timbers coach Caleb Porter said playing for a tie is not part of the plan.

“We’re not going to over-think this double-leg thing. We’re going to play to win. And guess what? If you win every game, then the double legs don’t matter,” Porter said following a Tuesday practice at the Timbers training facility.

“We’ll have a very proactive, aggressive, attack-oriented, ruthless mentality going into this game,” he said.

The Timbers have plenty of reason to be confident. Portland has beaten Seattle twice in the last three weeks. The Timbers are on a nine-game unbeaten run, including six wins, during a stretch that included five games against playoff teams.

The Timbers have not lost at home since March, and have not been scored against in their last five home matches.

By contrast, the Sounders have only one win in their last nine matches. Thursday’s match will be the fourth over 12 days for Seattle, which might also work to Portland’s advantage.

Porter said on Tuesday that his team practiced like a team that is rested and ready for the opportunity ahead.

“I think they smell a bit of blood in the water,” Porter said.

Not that Porter or his players think that Seattle is dead.

“I expect them to push hard the entire game,” Timbers defender Michael Harrington said. “They’re a tough team. It’s a rivalry. It’s playoffs. So it’s going to be intense. We’ll be up for it.”

One reason why the Timbers are on a better run than the Sounders is lineup stability. Portland has started the same back seven in the last seven matches.

Seattle, by contrast, has shuffled lineups and formations in search of a winning formula. Injuries and other absences have added to that challenge for coach Sigi Schmid.

On Thursday, the Sounders will be without forward Lamar Neagle (suspended). The status of right back DeAndre Yedlin and forward Obafemi Martins is not likely to be known until gametime.

Porter noted that the Timbers have faced all the Sounders they are likely to see on Thursday, and have seen Seattle use multiple formations.

“I respect Sigi Schmid because he’s a very good coach. He’ll have his team ready,” Porter said. “He’ll have his team organized. They’re not going to go down without a fight. We expect a very difficult game, but our guys will be up for it.”

Notes

• Porter said that Maximiliano Urruti, who has missed the last three games, should be healthy enough to be in the mix to play at forward. He also said Diego Valeri’s adductor strain is the same and Valeri will be available.

• If Seattle is ahead by one goal at the end of the 90-minute match on Thursday, the teams will play an additional 30 minutes. If the total goals remain even, a penalty-kick tiebreaker will determine the winner.

• The winner between Portland and Seattle will play at 6 p.m. on Sunday in the first leg of the Western Conference final. If Portland wins, it will play at either Real Salt Lake or Los Angeles on Sunday. Portland would host the second leg of that series on Nov. 24 after a break for international matches.