'Everything' about Timbers concerns Sounders coach Sigi Schmid
Having allowed the Portland Timbers to walk into Qwest Field (now CenturyLink Field) and come away with a 1-1 draw on May 14, Sunday's 1 p.m. rivalry rematch at Jeld-Wen Field is even more significant for the Seattle Sounders.
'We're excited,' Sounders coach Sigi Schmid says. 'There's more incentive. Everybody on our team, after the draw at home, (was) disappointed with that. We thought we had done a little bit more than to deserve a draw. I'm sure Portland felt they deserved more as well. So now it's a chance to prove that.
'After that first game, this game has taken on greater meaning.'
After that May match, a back and forth ensued between Schmid and Portland coach John Spencer. In his post-match comments, Schmid alluded to the rainy conditions in Seattle that night favoring the Timbers. He also talked about the Timbers being a side that thrives off set pieces.
Spencer fired back after a Timbers training session the following week.
'It seemed to me that they had 50 excuses before the game written down why they never beat us three or four-nil at home,' Spencer said, among many other things.
During a teleconference on Thursday, Schmid remained vanilla, refusing to give the Timbers bulletin-board material.
'I have no issues with John Spencer,' Schmid said. 'John was a great player, he was excellent as an assistant coach (with the Colorado Rapids), and he's a good head coach. We're rivals because we coach Seattle and Portland and we're both very competitive individuals.
'There are no hard feelings. Maybe that disappoints people, but there are no hard feelings on my side. On the other hand, we both want to win the game when we step on the field.'
Seattle and Portland are on the opposite end of the spectrum, MLS standings-wise. The Sounders, (8-4-8, 32 points) sit third in the Western Conference, behind the Los Angeles Galaxy and FC Dallas. The Timbers (5-8-3, 18 points) are in the middle of a six-league match winless streak. Portland is in eighth place in the West, ahead of only the Vancouver Whitecaps.
When it comes to Sunday's derby match, though, Schmid says the records aren't important. He adds that the Timbers' recent skid could even play to their favor.
'They're highly motivated,' Schmid says. 'If anything, it puts a greater emphasis on this game for them. But this game, it doesn't matter what our record is going into it, it doesn't matter what their record is going into it. This game brings its own fireworks.'
After the first match, Schmid had reason to comment on the Timbers' ability to score on set pieces. Portland's lone goal came in the 65th minute. Midfielder Jack Jewsbury's 30-yard free kick found Mamadou 'Futty' Danso, who knocked in a header.
Schmid says the Sounders' ability to defend against the Timbers' set pieces will start with allowing as few opportunities as possible.
'The best way to avoid set pieces and having to defend against them is not giving away silly fouls,' Schmid says. 'The most important goal is not to give away silly fouls, to not give fouls away in dangerous positions on the field. That's the best thing we can do.'
If and when the Sounders do have to defend against set pieces, they will have to do a far better job marking Portland's attackers.
'They've got dangerous pieces when they do have set pieces,' Schmid says. 'Danso is a load, and (defender Eric) Brunner is big. Jewsbury serves a great ball. The adjustments are to focus in training on (set pieces) and concentrate on making sure guys do a good job of staying with their runners. That's an important part.'
Set pieces are not the only part of the Timbers' game that concerns Schmid.
'Everything concerns me about Portland's team,' he says. 'But I'm a coach, so I'm paid to worry. (Striker Jorge) Perlaza is a great player; he's got tremendous speed. (Midfielder Darlington) Nagbe scored an unbelievable goal last week. He's somebody who is quick and bright and good with the ball. (Troy) Perkins is a quality goalkeeper. A lot of players have stood up.
'They're a good team. There are a lot of pieces to their puzzle.'
The last time the Timbers and Sounders met, Seattle was crippled with injuries. The Sounders are healthier this time around, though they are not at 100 percent.
'We're not going to be 100 percent the rest of the season due to (midfielder Steve) Zakuani being out (right leg fracture) and O'Brian White still won't be back (left leg surgery),' Schmid says. 'Outside of that, we've got a couple of guys with little aches and pains. A couple of guys are going to be day-before-the-game, maybe even game-day decisions. But for the most part, we feel pretty healthy.'
Sunday's match will go a long way in determining the winner of the Cascadia Cup - a semi-manufactured competition between the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps. Schmid says he cares only about the Cascadia Cup as it relates to the Sounders' run at the MLS playoffs.
'We care about the Cascadia Cup because it means we got more points,' Schmid says. 'At the end of the day, we care about points. Part of getting points will also lead us to being more competitive in the Cascadia Cup or to win the Cascadia Cup.
'But if I were to win the Cascadia Cup and not make the playoffs, that wouldn't make me a very happy coach. They're all interconnected, and I don't separate them, really.'