One stat is enough to show 2020’s Cascadia derby is odd.
The Sounders FC and Portland Timbers returned to Major League Soccer’s regular season amid a pandemic with a match at Providence Park in August and didn’t have a single yellow or red card shown. Somewhere Clint Dempsey had to be twitching.
The Aug. 23 game was the first genteel match between the rivals since the historic lineup became part of the MLS schedule in 2011. The Sounders won 3-0, striker Raul Ruidiaz scoring a brace.
Dempsey was part of the most heated game in the derby when three red cards were shown, and the Sounders played with seven men in an eventual 3-1 loss in extra time in 2015.
Playing without fans in August likely contributed to the mannerly game, the Rave Green preparing to do the same Sunday when Portland visits CenturyLink Field. Fans won’t be in attendance and the game won’t air nationally for the first time since 2008.
“They’ve got eyes on us,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said of Portland in a video conference call with media Friday. “We went there, we won 3-0, so I’m sure that left a sour taste in their mouth. I’m sure they’re going to come out and try to get some revenge in our place (but) it’s going to be a different team than we saw. They’re going to be more aggressive and up for the game a little bit more.”
Sunday marks the Sounders’ third match in eight days and second at CenturyLink since March 7. The league shut down play beginning March 12 in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Portland appeared to be the club to watch when the regular-season resumed. The Timbers won the MLS is Back tournament in Florida in August, scoring at a fast clip.
Beginning with the match against Seattle, Portland has instead struggled. The Timbers (3-3-2) have conceded 10 goals in three matches and only picked up one point to sit in sixth position in the Western Conference standings.
“We’ve had a difficult little stretch of games and results,” Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson said via audio provided by MLS. “We’ve gotten unlucky a little bit and moving forward it’s something we need to clean up. Get back to what we were doing in Orlando.”
The Sounders (4-1-3) have been clicking and are second in the West. But the club remains bothered by dropping a 2-1 lead to finish in a 2-2 draw at Real Salt Lake in their last outing.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer did make five lineup changes due to a three-day turnaround from a win against Los Angeles FC at CenturyLink last week.
“Championship teams figure out ways how to close out games like that,” Schmetzer said in a video conference call with media after the RSL draw. “The guys work way too hard on two days’ rest, the five guys that came in (to the starting lineup) played well, the guys that (subbed on) played well. The team has to understand that championship teams are able to close out games like that. It’s two points dropped.”
The Sounders will again have a lineup change as defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson misses another match. Svensson joined his Swedish national team for UEFA Nations League play. He is also expected to miss Thursday’s home match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“We know (Portland) is a dangerous team,” Schmetzer said during a video conference call with media Friday. “We will try to prepare for both scenarios, the Portland that we know or do they try to throw a wrinkle at us.”