BEAVERTON, Ore. – It would be easy to assume that the Portland Timbers won’t change a thing when they welcome the Seattle Sounders to JELD-WEN Field for Thursday’s second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs (11 pm ET; NBCSN).
The Timbers snagged a one-goal lead in the aggregate thanks to a 2-1 victory this past Saturday in the first leg in Seattle. And they did it by allowing the Sounders to carry the game in the attack and taking advantage of their chances on the counter.
If it’s ain't broke, don’t fix it. Right? Not necessarily.
“We will play to win in this game and that means we will have a very proactive, aggressive, attack-orientated ruthless mentality going into this game,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said after Tuesday's training session at the team facility.
Portland have generally been the aggressors against most teams this season, and they’re certainly more apt to take the game to their opponents in the friendly confines of their home pitch buoyed by a raucous fan base. And Porter said his team “smell a little bit of blood in the water” heading into their first ever home playoff game.
“We don’t want to sit back and let them attack us and hope to hold on,” defender Jack Jewsbury said. “We’re going to, like we always do, we’re going to press and look to score that first goal.”
That will be made easier, Porter said, thanks to their strategy in the first leg. By letting the Sounders control much of that game, Porter said Seattle “spent a lot of energy.” And for a team that will be playing their third game in eight days, Porter is hoping that catches up to them.
“I think that will definitely play into this next match, considering they’re on three games in eight days and they had to expend a lot of energy in that game by carrying the game,” Porter said. “And in the end we still got the win out of it.”
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Of course, Seattle could have reinforcements in the form of forward Obafemi Martins and fullback DeAndre Yedlin, who are both returning to health this week. But Porter said he’s not worried how they’ll match up, considering this will be the fifth time the rivals have faced each other this season.
Porter also noted that he’ll have previously injured striker Maximiliano Urruti available for selection, as well.
“These are all the things that we’ve talked about and prepared for,” Porter said. “But the biggest thing is we’ve already faced every guy. You can be so worried about this and that and what they’re going to do, but we’re going to be mostly focused on what we’re going to do and we’re going to respect every single one of their players.
We’ll respect their team. They’re not going to go down without a fight. We expect a very difficult game, but our guys will be up for it.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.