TUKWILA, Wash. — In Brad Evans’ soccer career, he’s only been removed at halftime once.
That it happened in a road game against the Seattle Sounders’ biggest rivals (a 2-1 loss to Portland on June 24) is something he hasn’t forgotten. He’ll get a chance to make a different kind of memory when the Sounders once again visit the Portland Timbers on Saturday (3:30 pm ET, NBC, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
PREVIEW: Timbers host Seattle on NBC
“If I get a chance to start this weekend, I want to put in a better performance and kind of carry on what I’ve been doing the past couple months,” Evans said. “I just need to play better. It was a little embarrassing last time out.”
That game turned out to be a bit of a turning point for Evans, the Sounders and the Timbers, although not in the same ways.
Since that 2-1 loss, the Sounders have gone 6-1-4 in league games and moved up to second place in the Western Conference. The Timbers, meanwhile, have gone 3-8-2 and watched their playoff hopes all but disappear.
Evans’ turnaround has paralleled that of the Sounders.
WATCH: Timbers ambush Sounders
Facing increased challenges for playing time as Seattle have brought in players like Christian Tiffert and Mario Martinez, Evans has started all but one league game since, while scoring a goal and notching three assists. No Sounders player has started more games in that time.
“Everybody goes through ups and downs,” Evans said. “We hit a low point and now we have to maintain this if we want to advance in the playoffs and looking at the MLS Cup. Right now, anything looking past this is only going to hurt us.”
The Sounders seem well aware of the fact that despite the Timbers’ struggles, winning this game could very well make their season. In fact, if the Timbers win, they’ll clinch the Cascadia Cup. Although the Timbers won the fan-sponsored trophy from 2009-10, they have yet to win it when all three teams (Portland, Seattle and Vancouver) were included in the competition.
Adding just a little more fuel to the fire is the fact that this game will be broadcast on NBC, the first time the network has ever shown a MLS game on broadcast television.
“We talked about how we’re not ready to give away the Cascadia Cup yet,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We know that if they win, they will then win the Cascadia Cup because they win the head-to-head with us. Our objective is always to win our head-to-head series with teams and this is a season series we want to win. We’re not going to give it away Saturday.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.