After the starting the year by winning their first three games and looking like one of the best teams in MLS, the Timbers have struggled to maintain their spot near the head of the table, going just 4-7-3 since their season-opening hot streak.
Sunday’s match will be Portland’s 18th of the year – and their first since hitting the halfway point in their 3-2 loss at expansion side Minnesota United on Wednesday. The Timbers are currently in fourth in the West, but they’re only three points ahead of the red line and, after Sunday, will have played more matches than all but two of their Western counterparts.
Sunday, then, could represent a turning point for the Timbers.
After going 2-5-2 in their last seven league matches, including a pair of losses at stragglers Minnesota and Colorado in the last week, the Timbers are looking to get themselves back on track at home against a Sounders team that beat them 1-0 in Seattle last month and 2-1 in the Open Cup on June 13.
“We are focused on every game to win; this is where our mind is set, then we look after where we stand,” Timbers defender Vytas told reporters on Friday. “Of course, now we are in the midseason and every game brings us closer to the finish line where more and more you are going to look at the points. That is why it is so hard to get those losses away, because you need every point in the season. At the end of the day, every point is going to matter so you should pick up every point that you can get.”
The conventional wisdom is to throw out the form book going in to a rivalry match. The Timbers are certainly subscribing to that philosophy ahead of their meeting against the eight-place Sounders, looking to put their struggles in the rearview as they attempt to start the second half positively.
“Having gone through the ups and downs of the first half of the season now it is time to get to the second round of the season and try to pick up some very important points on Sunday,” said Timbers striker Fanendo Adi. “Of course, we know it is a big rivalry and we know what to expect. We want to do to them what they did to us. We are just going to go into the game, and we have had very good results against them at home, so we will take that into the game on Sunday.”
“Every game is important,” added Vytas, “but this is a derby game and that really makes it different from all the rest of the games. You put extra attention and extra focus on it and the fans will remember it all season. Also, we lost the first game away so we need to show that it was a mistake. It is something bigger.”