BEAVERTON, Ore. — Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer has been involved in some gigantic games throughout his career.
The Glasgow, Scotland, native played for the English powerhouse Chelsea, the Scottish national team and was as an assistant coach in two MLS Cups with Houston, so he knows just what ingredients are necessary for a legendary match.
And according to Spencer, the Cascadia rivalry between Portland and Seattle, especially the latest installment coming to Portland’s JELD-WEN Field on Sunday (4 pm ET, ESPN) for the first time since the Timbers joined MLS, has just what it takes to go down in the books.
“This could be a highlight in some of our careers,” Spencer said on Friday after training. “I’ve played in some big games and been a part of a coaching staff in big games, and Sunday could be one of those games.”
The factors have been building since the two clubs played to a 1-1 draw on May 14 — not to mention the extensive history of the rivalry.
Immediately after the match, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid and Spencer shared choice words in the press. Spencer thought Schmid made excuses for the tie and didn’t give enough credit to Portland.
Since that game, Portland have won just once in seven tries and are on a six-game winless streak. Seattle, meanwhile, have won six games since meeting Portland, including four straight.
“I don’t think [Seattle are] any tougher than they were up there, but they’re more confident,” Spencer said. “Same with us. We’re not a worse team than we were a month ago. We’re lacking confidence, not lacking ability.”
Portland captain Jack Jewsbury is aware of the implications and what it means to be involved. He said that while the players need to be professional and focus on not letting emotions get the best of them.
“I think a lot of people have said that if we can get the win this weekend, all of a sudden, the struggles in the past few weeks will be erased,” he said. “We’re going to come out firing on all cylinders and hopefully with the energy to get the three points that we need.”
Bragging rights. Egos. Winning and losing streaks. Bottom line: There’s a lot at stake.
“Those big games, big players step up and in big moments, not only for themselves but for the club and the history of the club,” Jewsbury said. “So I think it’d be great scoring those goals right in front of the Timbers Army and celebrating with them. I think that is something guys will remember for the rest of their lives.”