By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
PORTLAND — The busiest stretch of the Seattle Sounders’ season comes to an end Sunday.
And since that end comes in Portland against the Timbers, the Sounders feel confident that they will be able to summon the physical and mental energy needed for what will be their fifth match in 15 days.
“When it comes to fatigue or anything, it’s do or die when it comes to this game,” Seattle captain Brad Evans said. “I think a lot of guys mark this on the calendar weeks in advance, so I think we’ll be up for it.”
Seattle started this busy stretch with a 2-0 league win over Houston on Aug. 10 and a 6-0 mauling of Chicago in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal Aug. 13. But things declined from there with a 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake on Aug. 16 and then losing a lead at home for a disappointing 1-1 draw with San Jose on Wednesday.
The Sounders are 1-3-1 since their last match against the Timbers, and have dropped into a three-way tie with RSL and Dallas atop the Western Conference.
Even with those other concerns, second-year defender DeAndre Yedlin said facing the Timbers provides incentive enough for a performance that could help them in the MLS and Cascadia Cup races.
“I know the fans love these games, so that’s first,” he said. “Obviously you want to win. I think the rivalry in this case is very important. It all leads in together: It’s a motivator to get higher in the standings.”
The Timbers also are coming through a busy stretch of schedule, along with a major bump in air miles.
Over less than a month, the Timbers have traveled to Montreal and Los Angeles, returned home for one match, and then set out on the road again to New England last weekend and then to Guyana on Tuesday for a 4-1 CONCACAF Champions League win at Alpha United.
Portland head coach Caleb Porter tried to mitigate the CCL impact by dividing his roster, but some key players such as Maximiliano Urruti, Pa Modou Kah, Kalif Alhassan, Steve Zakuani, Jack Jewsbury and Rodney Wallace traveled and played in the CONCACAF match.
“It was certainly an extensive travel trip, but it was not a tough opponent,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “…They were able to go down there with basically their reserve team and still get a result. It wasn’t a strenuous game.”
This will be the fourth and final scheduled meeting between the Sounders and Timbers this season. Seattle has the advantage, 2-0-1. The clubs played to a 4-4 draw in April at Portland, and the Sounders won, 2-0, last month in Seattle. A few days before that, the Sounders also eliminated the Timbers from the U.S. Open Cup with a 3-1 quarterfinal-round win at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.
This also is Seattle’s second-to-last match in this Cascadia Cup competition. Vancouver (2-0-1) leads with seven points, followed by the Sounders (1-1-2) with five and the Timbers (0-2-1) with one.
“It’s hard work,” Schmid said. “But we’re pros. Hard work is something that we’re used to. The guys have a strong mentality. Their mental fitness is strong. I know in this game they’ll definitely bring their sharpest abilities onto the field and they’ll be mentally very fit. … Every time we play Portland, if you can’t get up for that game you can’t get up for anything. It always gets the guys motivated; and I know Portland will be motivated. It will be a good game.”