Seattle unfazed by intimidating atmosphere at JELD-WEN

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TUKWILA, Wash. — For most opposing MLS teams, Portland’s JELD-WEN Field is one of the most intimidating places to play.

The Timbers Army fills up the entire North End of the stadium, with fans waiting hours before the game just to secure a good seat there. As soon as the gates open, their songs and chants will echo throughout the 20,438-seat facility.

Adding to that are the field’s dimensions being among the tightest in MLS, with the crowd seemingly right on top of the players.

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But the Seattle Sounders, who have yet to lose there in three tries since joining MLS (dating back to US Open Cup play), don’t seem very bothered as they head into Sunday’s Cascadia Cup showdown (5 pm ET, ESPN, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).

“The atmosphere and the energy at that stadium is going to be amazing,” said Roger Levesque (above, far right), who has played his fair share of games there as a member of the Sounders dating back to the USL days. “But there’s going to be a lot of positive energy there, too, with the Sounders fans and the support that they give us and will be able to show in the stands.

“I expect them to be every bit as loud as the Timbers fans, maybe outnumbered a little bit but they are that much more passionate.”

The away fan allocation at JELD-WEN was raised to 800 tickets, up from 500 last year. Assuming they are located in the same spot, that would put them right behind the Sounders bench.

“It completely drowns out their crowd,” Seattle defender Zach Scott said. “It’s kind of the way it was this year in Vancouver as well. They are right behind our bench, you can hear them singing and chanting the whole game. You don’t even realize you’re playing at an away stadium because they are so loud and so passionate. It’s huge for us to get that kind of support, especially on the road.”

It also helps when the Sounders have previously given their fans something to cheer about. During the first three Cascadia Cup games of the MLS era, the Sounders have done just fine in that department, going 2-0-1 while scoring eight goals.

Levesque, who scored a goal just 48 seconds into the Sounders’ win over the Timbers in the 2009 US Open Cup game in Portland, says there’s something special about those away goals.

“Sigi [Schmid] says there’s nothing better than scoring a goal at home and hearing your fans get behind you and hearing that roar,” said Levesque, “but also scoring a goal on the road and hearing that eerie silence, eerie quiet – there’s something about that as well."

Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.