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Pride at stake as Sounders prep for Timbers

by: NED DISHMAN SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC COACH SIGI SCHMID

Seattle Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid realizes that it is impossible for the match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday to not take on meaning that extends beyond the pitch.

But Schmid is trying to keep his team focused on the task at hand.

'Obviously, it's a little different than a regular game, because of the history between the Timbers and the Sounders going all the way back to the NASL days,' Schmid says. 'That makes it a little bit special in that the cities are very competitive. Outside of that, you want to approach it just like you approach any other game.'

To do that, Schmid has kept the routine of the Sounders (3-3-4, 13 points) the same throughout this week of training.

'You can't ignore the rivalry completely,' Schmid says. 'What you try to do is approach every work day, every practice day the same way and not change what we do in training. We're not throwing in an extra day of practice. We're not changing the way we're going to play. So you approach all of those things in the same way.'

Media coverage surrounding the Sounders has made that difficult.

'There's more media attention, there's more press out at practices than normal,' Schimd says. 'The questions obviously revolve around the past history of games between these two clubs. So from that point, you can't ignore it. It's part of what exists.'

Making the 8 p.m. (ESPN2) match even more difficult for the Sounders is that they may be limping into Qwest Field on Saturday.

Players listed as 'out' on Tuesday's injury report: forward O'Brian White (left leg surgery) and midfielder Steve Zakuani (right leg fracture).

Also, midfielder Mauro Rosales is listed as questionable (hamstring strain), and midfielder Brad Evans missed the Sounders' last match with a quadriceps injury.

'For us, the key is to get healthy bodies on the field,' Schmid says. 'Obviously, we've had some injuries. That's something like 75, 80 percent of our offense. So we've gotten goals in different places. That's very important for us as we approach this game. We want to get guys back onto the field, that's important for us, also.'

Schmid was keeping his cards close to his chest when asked Wednesday whether the injured players would be ready for battle.

'I don't really know yet,' he said. 'Some of them are going to be decisions that will be made tomorrow or Friday.'

Whatever squad Schmid puts onto the pitch against the Timbers (4-3-1, 13 points), he hopes they will find a way to put in a consistent effort.

'We're like all teams,' he says. 'The thing we're always struggling for is consistency. We want to be more consistent game in and game out. We want to be consistent in a game and not have some of the ups and down.'

The Timbers have conceded only nine goals this season. But at times, the backline has looked soft, mentally as much as physically. And Portland has had a habit of conceding one goal and then conceding a second soon afterward.

That could play to the Sounders' advantage. Though they have given up 14 goals (tied with the New York Red Bulls for second most in MLS), the Sounders have also scored 12 goals (tied with the Timbers, the Los Angeles Galaxy and D.C. United for the second most in MLS).

'We try to knock the ball around,' Schmid says. 'We try to get forward in attacking numbers, but we're not afraid to counterattack as well.'

Schmid is aware that the Timbers' offense revolves around speed and midfielder Jack Jewsbury's services.

'They're a big team,' Schmid says. 'They're good off set pieces. They have (Kenny) Cooper and (Mamadou 'Futty') Danso and (Eric) Brunner, who are all good players in the air. They're a team that can play direct. They have some good speed up front, they've got a good hold-up forward. So they have a good mix of players.'

Seattle will try to limit the number of times Jewsbury lines up alone behind the ball.

'It's a question of whether we can make sure we have a good defensive cover and that we're not going to give away unnecessary free kicks and corners,' Schmid says. 'Make sure we stay in the game.'

As the Sounders coach, Schimd says he would take three points against any opposing club, rival or not.

'For us as coaches, three points is three points,' he says, 'whether it's against Dallas or Portland or Chicago. They all count three points. Nothing counts more than three points.'

That said, Schmid does realize that for those who buy tickets to sit inside Qwest Field, Saturday's match means more than just the three points.

'Our fans are very important to us, just as Portland's fans are very important to their team,' he says. 'We know that our fans take a lot of pride in this rivalry. I'm sure the same motivation is working for Portland. So at the end of the day, it's only worth three points, but there's a lot of pride at stake for the fans.'