Slump Buster: Battle for Cascadia perfect opportunity for Seattle Sounders to leave midseason rut behind

TUKWILA, Wash. – For the Seattle Sounders, Sunday night’s road matchup with the Portland Timbers represents another golden opportunity to get their season back on track as the team fights through its first extended stretch of poor play of 2014.

The Sounders have fallen into a tie for the lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings after leading the race for much of the season, and have only won two out of their last seven matches. There would seem to be few better remedies than bagging three points on the road against their biggest rival.

“You shouldn’t really need it but if you do, [the rivalry is] that extra motivation,” Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin said. “The fans love it, we love it. I’m sure [the Timbers] love it. It’s an exciting game for everybody.”

Seattle and Portland have met three times this year already, including one of the best games of the season in a wild 4-4 draw in Portland on April 5. Seattle has topped the Timbers twice since, once in a 3-1 US Open Cup battle on July 9 and again in a 2-0 MLS match just four days later.

Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said the difficulty of beating the same team three times in a row isn’t lost on his team as they prepare for Portland.

“It’s difficult to beat a team twice in a season, let alone three ... It’s difficult,” Evans said. “But it’s a rivalry game. You kind of throw everything out the window. It’s do-or-die when it comes to this game.”

Evans also told reporters that he isn’t overly concerned about the fatigue factor that could be an issue for Seattle as the team get set to play its fifth match in the last 15 days.

“I think everybody’s ready to push,” Evans said. “At these critical times you love to see that. You love to see guys stepping up.”

Seattle held Clint Dempsey out of its last game due to fatigue concerns, but the star forward figures to return to his normal starting position Sunday night. Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said midfielder Gonzalo Pineda will be a game-time decision as he recovers from an ankle injury.