Timbers, Sounders renew rivalry for 100th time

Even at midseason, there’s plenty at stake when the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders meet.

The Cascadia Cup rivals will battle for the second time this season on Saturday afternoon at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. Portland defeated visiting Seattle 1-0 in the first matchup on May 13, with Sebastian Blanco scoring in the 86th minute.

That last game was the 100th meeting between the teams, dating to 1975 in the old North American Soccer League.

“These are the easiest games in regards to the mentality, because everybody understands when you play Seattle and you’re a Portland Timbers player, this is going to be a huge game and it’s going to be a difficult game and it’s a derby,” first-year Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “These are the games that actually every player on the team understands clearly what is at stake.”

The Timbers (6-3-5) are undefeated in their past nine matches after a 1-1 draw Sunday in Atlanta. Diego Valeri scored for Portland and Jeff Attinella made eight saves.

It was Portland’s third straight tie after six consecutive wins.

The two-time defending Western Conference champion Sounders (3-8-3) are coming off a 1-1 tie at home with the Chicago Fire. Clint Dempsey scored for the Sounders, his first goal of 2018 and the 47th regular-season goal with Seattle, tying Fredy Montero (2009-2012) for the franchise record.

“Obviously, it’s a big game for a lot of different reasons,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Number one, it’s our archrival, number two we need to collect points after dropping a couple on the weekend. But it’s Portland, so I’ll just stick with that.”

The Sounders, in their 10th season in MLS, are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time.

“There’s a lot at stake,” midfielder Cristian Roldan told The Seattle Times. “We’ve said that for the last couple of weeks. We have so much to lose at this point. We’re at the bottom of the table, and if we continue to lose then Portland can just laugh at us.

“We have to continue to fight together as a team and realize that it’s survival mode. We have to win games, and in order to do that you have to play these big teams and beat them up.”

Making matters tougher for the Sounders is that goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who made six saves against the Fire, was injured late in that match and is in the concussion protocol. Frei is listed as questionable against Portland.

The Sounders are 9-6-6 against the Timbers in regular-season MLS play, including 7-0-3 at home.