When the Sounders play Portland, it matters. Even in a match without Major League Soccer implications, such as the one that will be played Tuesday in Tukwila, the rivalry carries weight.
When the Sounders play Portland, it matters. Even in a match without Major League Soccer implications, such as the one that will be played Tuesday, the rivalry carries weight.
“There is a real rivalry there that goes deeper than just the league creating something,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “When it’s real, you can’t just turn it off. It exists. It’s there. And that’s a good thing.”
Frei said he notices it even when the teams play in the preseason, and he expects the Sounders to feel it when they face the Timbers in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup at Starfire Sports complex in Tukwila.
Portland @ Sounders, Tukwila, 7:30 p.m. (U.S. Open Cup)
It’s a rivalry fueled by geography, as most are, since the cities are fewer than 200 miles apart. Then, there’s the recent success, with the Sounders winning the 2016 MLS Cup and the Timbers winning it in 2015.
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And maybe, Frei said, the fact both cities seem to share the vibe of being an “up-and-coming, hip kind of city with microbreweries and GeekWire and all the cool things that young people like” adds to the conversations about which city is better.
On the field, Seattle and Portland play each other three times in this year’s regular season, which doesn’t include the match Tuesday. On May 27, the Sounders beat the Timbers 1-0 at CenturyLink Field.
Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris, who have combined to score six of Seattle’s 18 goals this season, were recently away on U.S. national-team duty. Dempsey will miss Tuesday’s game because he was suspended from the tournament for two years or six matches, whichever is longer, after tearing up a referee’s notebook in 2015.
When asked about Morris’ availability for the match, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer simply said Morris would “be back in Seattle.”
The Sounders team that plays, Schmetzer said, will be “balanced” and “mixed.”
“It’s important for the young players because I think when they play for S2 and when they come to play for first team, it’s different,” said Jordy Delem, who played for Sounders FC 2 last year. “They are happy about that. It’s a good opportunity to show they’re talented and to get some minutes.”
Since MLS began in 1996, only once has a team from outside the league won the U.S. Open Cup. Seattle is tied with the Chicago Fire to lead MLS teams with four U.S. Open Cup titles each.
In the 2015 edition of the tournament, Seattle lost to Portland in the fourth round, which was the game that resulted in Dempsey’s suspension. When the teams played each other in May, there were 26 fouls. That’s the match that taught Delem about the rivalry, he said.
“You must stay strong in the head because you know this is a rivalry game, so I hope we have a good referee,” said Delem, smiling. “But we must control ourselves, too.”