By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
TUKWILA — In their first MLS meeting in April, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers played to a 4-4 draw, with Seattle scoring twice in the final five minutes.
In their U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday, the Timbers equalized in stoppage time before Seattle surged to a 3-1 win in extra time.
The third meeting comes today, and it could have even more going for it: a near-sellout crowd jamming the full 67,000-seat capacity of CenturyLink Field, a national television audience, and the expected return of U.S. national team captain Clint Dempsey from the World Cup in Brazil.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Seattle defender Chad Marshall said. “Obviously the last game was tough, physical, 120 minutes. I’m sure in an even bigger stadium, packed out, it’s going to keep going. … It’s hard to top (the first two). I’m sure Sunday will be crazy, too.”
Both teams are very different from the ones that met April 5 in Portland. Since then, the Sounders have gone 9-1-1 and roared to the top of the Major League Soccer standings, while the Timbers have gone 4-3-6 and are trying to climb into playoff position.
And by necessity, both teams also will be somewhat changed from Wednesday because of the toll of playing two games in five days — especially for the seven Seattle and six Portland field players who went the full 120 minutes.
“A few guys have to play a few more minutes maybe than we would have expected,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “It is what it is, and you’ve got to deal with the situations as they come.”
The most notable lineup changes could come on the Sounders’ side where goals co-leaders Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins are expected to return, along with U.S. national team right back DeAndre Yedlin.
Yedlin played in the Open Cup match Wednesday, but hasn’t played an MLS match since May 11 at New England. Martins missed the Open Cup match and the 1-0 loss at Vancouver last weekend due to a hamstring injury. Dempsey had been away on international duty since mid-May.
“Excited about being back again,” Dempsey said after returning to training Friday. “I just want to say how great the guys have done since me and DeAndre have gone. We just want to get back on the team and try to keep that going.”
Since that original match in April, the Timbers have signed designated player Fanendo Adi, a 6-foot-4 forward from Nigeria whose contract was purchased from Danish club FC Copenhagen. The Sounders got a first look at Adi on Wednesday, when he took five shots, putting one on goal.
“He’s a big body — adds that dimension for them,” Marshall said. “They can pump balls into his chest, and he holds it up for them. He’s a handful. Obviously he makes good runs in the box, and they look for him on set pieces and the long ball. I like playing against those big guys and banging. Those games are fun.”
The game will be the second of the season played with CenturyLink open to its full capacity. In the previous such match, Seattle beat San Jose, 1-0, before a crowd of 49,746. That ran the Sounders’ all-time record to 9-0-3 when playing before a home crowd of larger than 40,000.
More than 60,000 tickets already have been sold for this one.
“It’s not too much of a drop off in terms of that excitement we experienced during the World Cup,” Dempsey said. “… The support that we have here, you can’t replicate it I don’t think anywhere else in the states because of the numbers that we get to our games is something that’s special. There are other passionate fans that are with the different teams, but in terms of numbers and support that we get here is amazing and tough to beat.”