SEATTLE — Some coaches would like their players to treat every game as if it was the same.
But when it comes to games like Sunday’s against the Portland Timbers -- 67,000 fans on hand to see what is arguably the most passionate rivalry in North American soccer -- Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid would just as well embrace the moment.
“I think the massive crowd for me is a wonderful opportunity,” Schmid said. “It’s something you have to get excited about. It has to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. You get there and hopefully the players can take that emotion and don’t turn it into overexcitement or pressure on themselves.
“There are certain guys, you remind of, the younger guys, but I think we have enough guys who have been in front of big crowds and big games and for them it’s something they look forward to.”
So far, that kind of attitude has served Schmid and the Sounders well. The Sounders have won all five of their previous home games played in front of crowds of at least 50,000, and they’ve done so by a collective score of 14-3.
One player who seems particularly well suited to these kinds of games is Eddie Johnson, who has scored three goals in front of those large crowds. He’s also scored three goals in four career games against the Timbers, including one earlier this season.
Games like this seem almost tailor-made for a player like Johnson, who constantly feeds off his emotions.
“Pretty much my whole career, I’ve fed off adversity,” he said. “Growing up, not having a lot, I’ve always been a fighter. I think different people have different motivations in life and that’s one of my things.
“Playing away, when the fans are screaming and trying to get into your head, I think the only way you can silence them is scoring a goal. I think I’ve done pretty well against [the Timbers]. “
There also seems to be a strong sense that winning games in front of big crowds, and especially against big rivals, means a little more than others. Numerous Sounders spoke this week of wanting to pay the fans back for their support.
“The fans just go nuts and it means so much to them,” Sounders midfielder Lamar Neagle said. “We want to give them Supporters’ Shield, we want to win that Cascadia Cup. We want to win this game for them because they can talk crap for the rest of the year. We love to see that and we love to give it to them.”