Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese was quick to point out that games against the Seattle Sounders always carry a bit of extra energy and intensity regardless of the circumstances.

But as his team gears up for its first Cascadia derby of the season against the Sounders at Providence Park on Sunday (3 pm ET | ABC), Savarese acknowledged on his Friday video call with reporters that there will be an added element to this match that has been sorely missed: Sunday's bout with Seattle will be first Sounders-Timbers match since August 2019 with fans in attendance at Providence, as a limited capacity, socially-distanced crowd will be allowed in the venue in accordance with local health guidelines.

It won't be the same as when all 25,000-plus are there, creating one of the most imposing home environments in all of MLS, but Savarese said that even the scaled-down crowd can still make a pronounced impact, especially in a rivalry match like this one.

"When the fans are in the stands, there's a big difference," Savarese said. "There's more energy, there's more passion, there's a building that you feel has an extra component that brings these games to a different level. That's huge. Even though we don't have full capacity, still a small number of people coming in, those few that come in, I will tell you, you can hear them. And their support is huge for us when we play at home and for Seattle when they play there."

Added goalkeeper Jeff Attinella: "The environment at Providence Park when the fans are cheering and everything's rocking, as players it's what you dream about as a kid, it's what you want to be a part of. You want to be part of rivalry games where the fans are going nuts. We're very happy that we're going to have fans in attendance, it does bring that extra energy because when you're playing in an empty stadium, sometimes you've got to find it within yourself. When you have the fans there, the energy is just constantly on top of you, especially at Providence Park."

Timbers Army "You'll float too" tifo - Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders

That excitement extends to the road team, too. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer and goalkeeper Stefan Frei both said on their Friday video calls that they much prefer these matches with the type of atmosphere that has made the rivalry into arguably the best derby in MLS, even when it's people passionately rooting for them to lose in the seats.

"It'll be nice to have some fans there," Frei said. "I've been down there with a full house and it gets pretty hostile that way, so I wouldn't expect it to be anywhere what we know it could be. But it'll be nice to hear the keys twirling before we get there in the stadium, and just I think overall sports in general is just better with fans. I think our sport in particular, maybe I'm biased, but the fact that we do not have the luxury of getting a timeout from a coach, it really is built on ebbs and flows.

"It just gels really well with a crowd because they can feed off of that, they can feed into that and become part of the game. So I'm happy that slowly we can hopefully get more and more fans back into the stadium, safely."

Schmetzer echoed the sentiment, although in true rivalry fashion the coach made sure to add that he's partial to the atmosphere and environment at Seattle's home of Lumen Field, where the clubs don't meet for the first time until August 29.

"Credit to the Timbers Army, credit to the people down in Portland, it is a really good atmosphere," Schmetzer said. "But it's just as good, if not better, at our place when we have double the amount of people, it's the same sort of passion for the home team. We're just bigger and better. But it will be a good atmosphere down there."

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