Matchday 8 didn’t produce any other loss for Seattle Sounders FC.
Just ask Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer, whose frustration was visible and palpable during his postgame press conference at Providence Park.
“It doesn't feel like a rivalry,” Schmetzer said. “After the game, some of our staff members, there's everybody talking, laughing. It's like another loss. It's not another loss. It's against the Timbers. We have to get back this – all of us have to get back to understanding that this is a rivalry.”
A rather one-sided rivalry right now, where Portland are the dominant force and haven’t lost since mid-August 2021. During this stretch, the Timbers have outscored Seattle 11-2.
Near the hour mark Saturday, it seemed like fortunes might flip towards the Rave Green. They went ahead on Raúl Ruidíaz’s 58th-minute goal, but then Portland scored four unanswered goals across an 18-minute span, starting with Dairon Asprilla’s world-class bicycle kick and ending with Juan Mosquera’s blast past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
The Timbers Army became louder with each punch back, sideline celebrations from Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese grew in vigor, and a similar ending was sealed.
“At 1-0, we have to have that killer instinct against a team that's beat us three games in a row, that's had our number at their place,” Schmetzer said. “Stick the knife in, kill the game. I don't give a s---t if it was the second goal or extended possession.”
The buildup and context about these rivals’ 2023 seasons only adds salt to the wound.
Seattle had taken the Western Conference lead in Matchday 7 with a 3-0 victory over St. Louis CITY SC, continuing a rebound reminiscent of their 2022 Concacaf Champions League-winning ways. Portland had one win through their first seven games and, walking-wounded style, are dealing with a lengthy list of injury-related absences to marquee players.
But rivalry games have a funny way of neutralizing said narratives, as Portland captured and packaged spectacularly.
“We messaged it before the game: They were using this game as a springboard,” Schmetzer said. “They have to go to Cincinnati next week. They get a bad result here, have to go to Cincinnati, that could doom them, put them out of their misery. But we give them life.”
Schmetzer, noting he’ll analyze his role in the loss, believes the Sounders are still a trophy-contending team. They were missing two key starters – midfielders Cristian Roldan (concussion protocol) and Albert Rusnák (right heel pain) – and objectively have the pieces to go far.
Seattle’s chance to respond arrives next Saturday when hosting Minnesota United FC (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). They’re also guaranteed two more cracks at Portland this year, hosting them June 3 and Sept. 2 at Lumen Field.
“It hurts. It's not an easy feeling to stand here and answer questions when you lose to your archrival 4-1 and you've lost four straight. It's not easy,” Schmetzer said. “But that doesn't mean that I don't believe this team is a very good team, that this team is capable of winning MLS Cup, going far in Leagues Cup. I think we're going to compete, I'm going to roll a good team out there for Open Cup.
“This team is a super talented team and, look, we're not going to win every game that we play this year. But we certainly are going to change the way we play next time we play Portland.”