The Cascadia rivalary comes to the US Open Cup for the first time in the MLS eara on Wednesday, when the Seattle Sounders welcome the Portland Timbers to the cozy confines of the Starfire Stadium.
The Timbers could provide another stiff test of Seattle's unbeaten home record in US Open Cup play (15-0-1, 13-0-1 at Starfire), after the Sounders narrowly slipped by the San Jose Earthquakes in the fifth round on penalties. The Sounders also defeated amateur side PSA Elite to get to this stage, while Portland beat the Orlando City U-23s and Sporting Kansas City.
In another twist, both teams will also face each other, this time at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, in an MLS contest on Sunday (10 pm ET, ESPN2). They have met once before in 2014, playing to a thrilling 4-4 draw in Portland on April 5.
Overall, Seattle hold a 3-1-0 advantage in the all-time Open Cup series between the two teams, with the MLS edition of the team having knocked out the lower division Timbers in 2009 and 2010. The Timbers's lone win of the series came in 2005, in the third round.
Seattle Sounders Outlook
The Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers resume US Open Cup play Wednesday, beginning what is shaping up to be a fun week of soccer in the Pacific Northwest.
The teams play again Saturday in an MLS match at CenturyLink Field, meaning that each club is unlikely to trot out a full-strength starting lineup for Wednesday’s contest.
“It’s tough to get two wins against the same team twice in a row and it’s even tougher when they’re both huge rivalry games like this,” said Seattle defender Zach Scott, who has started both of the team's Open Cup games so far this year. “You’ve got to be smart because there is a quick turn-around to the weekend so we can’t put out a full starting line-up for both of those games.”
Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said the condensed time period between the games will play into his decision-making as he evaluates exactly what line-up he’ll field on Wednesday.
“It’s obviously a little bit different because you’re playing two games back-to back,” Schmid told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re going to put the best team that makes sense with a little bit of an eye towards Saturday.”
Although the US Open Cup match doesn’t have any implications as far as the MLS standings are concerned, Schmid said the Cascadia Cup rivalry and opportunity to advance in the tournament should make for a motivated Seattle squad come Wednesday.
“I know our feeling and the feeling of most of the teams at this stage is we’re in it to win it,” Schmid said.
– Ari Liljenwall
Portland Timbers Outlook
There are US Open Cup games, and then there are US Open Cup games that have a bit more importance.
That was the message from Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter this week as his team prepares to take on Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders in a USOC quarterfinals matchup Wednesday at Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila, Wash. With a trophy just three games away, Porter said, the stakes are higher.
And even though the Timbers face a league game just four days later against the same team, at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, and then another less than a week later against Western Conference rival Colorado Rapids, don’t expect to see much in the way of squad rotation in the way the Timbers dealt with their earlier-round USOC games.
“As you get further along in the Open Cup, you start to play more of the guys you’re going to count on and rely and are going to take less risks,” Porter said after Monday’s session at the team’s training facility. “So you go with your best group, your top group. … We’re at the stage in the season where in our competitions we’re going to put our best foot forward.”
That means the back-to-back games against the Sounders could take on a playoff-series-like feel. The rivalry and the fact that Portland swept Seattle out of the MLS Cup Playoffs in the conference semifinals last year also adds to the intensity level of the two games.
And that’s just fine by Porter, who wants his group to get used to playing in high stakes games as they shoot for back-to-back playoff berths, to improve on their USOC semifinal run from last year and make their inaugural foray in CONCACAF Champions League next month.
“We need to build year after year,” Porter said. “Last year was a good year but we need to build this year … and that’s when you get the snowball really growing is when year after year you’re in and amongst all these competitions and you’re close and tasting it and then eventually you break through.”
A handful of first-choice players who likely won’t be available for selection Wednesday as they continue to nurse injuries are center backs Pa Modou Kah and Norberto Paparatto and forward Maximiliano Urruti.
– Dan Itel