Seattle takes three-game winning streak to Portland

The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers first faced off in 1975 in the old North American Soccer League.

On Sunday afternoon at Providence Park in Portland, the two Cascadia Cup rivals will meet for the 100th time.

The Timbers and Sounders both got off to slow starts in 2018 but have given their supporters cause for hope recently.

Portland (3-3-2) was winless in its first five games of the season, but now has won three straight games.

The Timbers beat Minnesota United 3-2 in their 2018 home debut on April 14 and followed that with a 3-0 rout of previously undefeated New York City FC eight days later. A week ago, Portland got its first road victory, thanks to some late-game heroics from Diego Valeri.

The midfielder nailed his 88th-minute penalty kick for the game’s only goal.

“We know how difficult it is to be able to win points away from home in any stadium,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We’re very pleased to be able to get the three points in a difficult match.”

Portland surrendered 14 goals and failed to record a shutout in its first six games this season. But the Timbers have outscored their opponents 7-2 and posted two shutouts since then.

“I think we’ve progressed match by match,” Savarese told The (Portland) Oregonian. “The work we’ve done, I think it’s showing. The guys are advancing and progressing and working for each other. As a coach, I’m content to see that.”

Seattle (2-4-2) has struggled to find an offensive rhythm this season — its seven goals scored are second worst in MLS thus far — but found enough firepower to post its first road win, 2-1 over Toronto FC on Wednesday.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer switched to a five-man defensive backline for the match in Canada and left all three of his designated players — Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro and Osvaldo Alonso — back home to rest or deal with injuries.

Will Bruin put Seattle on top and Handwalla Bwana provided the game-winner with his first goal as a professional.

“It was just the perfect ball,” Bwana said, according to MLS. “All I had to do was finish it. The funny thing is I was actually having a good finishing session the day before so I was feeling kind of good.

“It’s an unbelievable moment, it’s a kid dream scoring your first professional goal. I didn’t do it without my team and the most important thing was getting that three (points for a win) on the board.”

The Sounders will be without midfielder Harry Shipp (right ankle sprain) but their designated players are expected to start on Sunday.

Seattle leads the all-time series 50-35-14, including 9-5-6 in MLS play.