Spencer's job against Sounders easy: Wishing 'good luck guys'
Timbers should be plenty motivated for 1 p.m. Sunday match, without coaching advice
As an international footballer, Portland Timbers coach John Spencer knows a thing or two about derby matches.
A day before the Timbers play the Seattle Sounders in one of the biggest derby matches in Major League Soccer (1 p.m. Sunday, Jeld-Wen Field), Spencer reflected on the Rangers versus Celtic rivalry in Europe, which he calls the biggest he has ever been a part of.
'It's not just a game,' says Spencer, who was a striker for the Rangers. 'It's a religion. It's a Catholic-vs.-Protestant mentality, which is not what we're proud of in Scotland, but, it is what it is. You can't deny that that's the history behind the game. That's what makes it so unique, that's why it's probably the biggest derby in the world. Not fan-wise, but, hatred-wise.'
While Timbers vs. Sounders is not Rangers vs. Celtic, Spencer does have a lot of respect for the Northwest rivalry.
'The Sounders and the Timbers (rivalry) has been around for a long time before we got here in MLS and it will be (around) when we're all gone and buried,' Spencer says.
Even though he has a wealth of knowledge about rivalries, Spencer has not been talking to the Timbers about how he approached those matches as a player.
'I'm not one for preaching,' Spencer says. 'I don't think it's a good thing for a coach to say, 'Oh, when I played.' It's almost like talking down to them. That's not my approach.'
In fact, Spencer says his job tomorrow in the match will be among the easiest of the season for him.
'This is one of those easy games to coach,' Spencer says. 'I should be able to get into the locker room 10 minutes before the game tomorrow and go, 'Good luck guys' and walk out. You shouldn't need to inspire anybody for a game like this.'
The Timbers last match against the Sounders in Seattle ended in a 1-1 draw. Following the match, Spencer and Sounders coach Sigi Schmid got into a back-and-forth over how each coach viewed the outcome of the match.
Spencer does not believe that when the sides step onto the pitch Sunday that the Timbers will need to put their money where their coach's mouth was.
'No I don't think so,' Spencer says. 'Those comments were made for that game. They weren't made for future games. It's been well documented, both myself and Sigi had our own opinions. They were different, so just move on now. It's done with.'
In a kill-them-with-kindness move, Spencer praised Schmid as a coach.
'I like Sigi,' Spencer says. 'In fact when I was (playing) in Colorado (for the Rapids) they were looking for a coach and I thought Sigi would have been a great addition to the club. He would've been a great head coach for us.
'He's one of those guys that I would've loved to play for. He was one of those coaches that got the best out of players and he was the type of no-nonsense coach that I felt I needed to be a better player at that time. I never got a chance to work for him, but, I really admired him as a coach.'
The Sounders and the Timbers are far apart in the Western Conference, points-wise. Seattle, (8-4-8, 32 points) sits in third place in the conference behind the Los Angeles Galaxy and FC Dallas. Portland (5-8-3, 18 points) are in the middle of a six-match winless streak. The Timbers are in eighth place in the Western Conference, ahead of only the Vancouver Whitecaps.
In a rivalry match, though, Spencer says records mean little.
'These games are totally different from other games, just with the intense rivalry,' Spencer says. 'You could be on a 10-game losing streak and you just know that you don't want to lose at home so you can get that extra out of yourself.'
A win against their archrival could spring board the Timbers into returning to winning ways.
'It's a great game to rebound,' Spencer says. 'You get to play your fiercest rivals and it brings out the best in people. Sometimes it brings out the worst in people.'
On top of not providing the Sounders with additional bulletin board material, Spencer was keeping his cards close to the chest about what Portland will need to do to be successful.
'I ain't going to stand here and tell you what we need to do because I don't want to give them an insight into what we're thinking,' Spencer says. 'If we play well, the way we've played here (at home) at times this year, we won't be far off of winning the game.'
Timbers defender Mamadou 'Futty' Danso was a little more open. He says a quick start will be imperative.
'It's going to be important in this game,' Danso says. 'You want to start off the first 15 minutes trying to control the game. Make the game on your own tempo.'
For Spencer, the match will not be decided by the skills each side brings to the pitch. He says the final result will be about what is inside the 11 players on each club.
'The team that turns up tomorrow and has more players with a winning mentality and a winning attitude to succeed will win the game,' Spencer says. 'I've been involved in a lot of derby games and I know what it takes to win these games. I know ability alone won't win the game. It's going to come down to courage and desire tomorrow. Who wants it most?'
NOTES: Although he returned to the pitch in Thursday's friendly against Club America, Timbers striker Bright Dike - who missed nearly six months after rupturing his right Achilles tendon in preseason - is unlikely to see the pitch Sunday. 'This game has come just a little bit too early for him,' Spencer says. 'We got him some minutes against Club America because we knew it wouldn't be an overly aggressive game. The last thing we want to do is throw him in too early and then something happens to him and then we miss him for the whole season.' ...
Defender Rodney Wallace, who suffered a left knee injury in last weekend's match against Sporting Kansas City, participated in training Saturday and very well may play against Seattle. 'He is becoming Lazarus,' Spencer says. 'I get told after the game last week that he could be out for the season. And then he could be out four to six weeks. And Rodney was like, 'No chance.' Then it's a matter of days and then a matter of hours. Lazarus. It's remarkable.'