PORTLAND, Ore. – No stranger to a knock-down-drag-out rivalry, Kris Boyd knows just what to expect when he takes the field in his first Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders clash Sunday at JELD-WEN Field (5 pm ET, ESPN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“You look worldwide at derbies, and I think it all comes down to one thing, and it’s hatred for each other,” said Boyd, the Timbers striker, a former Rangers fixture and a mainstay in the legendary Old Firm rivalry between Rangers and Celtic. “It’s as simple as that. You don’t like each other … and we’re here to fight for Portland.”
And Boyd (pictured above, playing for Rangers against Celtic) said he gets no different a feeling from the week leading up to the first of three Portland-Seattle meetings this season. Tradition, hatred and high-level implications, Sunday’s match will have no shortage of the ingredients that has made this rivalry one of the nation’s best.
ESPN Preview: Portland-Seattle
“If you can’t get yourself up for these games, then you’ve got a problem,” Boyd said. “We look forward to it with confidence.”
And Portland come into the game needing results. They’re eighth in the Western Conference and have scored just 10 goals in 13 games.
Timbers head coach John Spencer said all that gets thrown out the window in these types of games.
“When the players step on the field, games like this generally doesn’t come down to coaching, tactics, it comes down to desire,” he said. “It comes down to the player who wants to win his individual battles, and if you win enough of those battles you win the game.”
That premise may factor in when Spencer fills out his lineup card. Forward Mike Fucito, who was acquired April 20 from Montreal, was drafted by Seattle and played three seasons there. And as fate would have it, Danny Mwanga, acquired in a recent trade with Philadelphia to be the Timbers starting forward opposite Boyd, has been nursing a “dead leg” from a knock he took in Portland’s 1-0 loss Sunday against the LA Galaxy.
Mwanga went through a full training session Friday but will receive treatment up until game time, Spencer said.
Could Fucito provide that extra injection of desire for Portland?
“Fortunately for us, we were able to get ahold of him,” Spencer said of Fucito, who has come off the bench in just three games for Portland. “He’s a very infectious character, really works hard in training every day, always comes in with a smile on his face. He’s in a positive mood, so we’ll see what happens Sunday.”
What seems clear is both sides are approaching the pivotal game as a chance to turn around their seasons. In addition to Portland’s struggles to begin the season, Seattle have gone winless in their last six games to drop to fourth place in the West.
“We know that we haven’t had the best of seasons, but results on Sunday can change your whole season,” Boyd said. “We look forward to it, and we’re ready to go. And I’m sure come kickoff time on Sunday, Seattle will know they’re in [for] a game.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.