VANCOUVER – The Seattle Sounders are going into one of their biggest games of the season with a bitter taste in their mouths following Wednesday’s disappointing 1-1 draw vs. a 10-man Vancouver Whitecaps side.
But with a massive Heineken Rivalry Week fixture against the Portland Timbers next on the docket, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer should field a closer-to-full-strength side when Seattle meet their rivals at CenturyLink Field on Sunday (9:30 pm ET | FS1; MLS LIVE in Canada) for their third match in one week. Against the Whitecaps, Schmetzer opted to bring star forward Clint Dempsey and captain Osvaldo Alonso off the bench while starting center back Roman Torres didn’t even make the trip to Vancouver to help combat the fixture congestion.
“I would have loved to have rested [Dempsey and Alonso] some more, but the team’s in a good spot.” Schmetzer said after Wednesday’s match. “We’ll regroup for Sunday. We’re going to regen [on Thursday] and we have two more training days and get a lineup, watch film of Portland, get our set pieces right, get our attacking movement right and get our defending right.”
Like Schmetzer and all of the other Sounders players that spoke to reporters after the game, Cristian Roldan said he was disappointed not to be leaving BC Place with all three points. But the third-year midfielder also stated that getting back on the field so quickly to play another archenemy presents a good opportunity to put that disappointment in the rearview mirror.
“Sunday will be a big test for us,” Roldan said. “[The Timbers] just won their game [against the Colorado Rapids] so they’ll be closer to us [in the standings]. But it’s important regardless to get that win especially at home. Those games are extremely crucial.”
For the Sounders, the stakes don’t get much higher than Sunday’s match with Portland. Seattle are in the midst of a torrid run of 10-straight unbeaten matches that has seen them vault – at least temporarily – into the top spot in the Western Conference with 41 points.
But the Timbers are right behind, currently in a second-place tie with the Sporting Kansas City at 40 points. That means a victory on Sunday for the Sounders would not only give them a win over their biggest rival, but also separation in the standings.
“I think guys are going to be itching to get back on the field and looking to finish off a busy week on a high note,” said striker Will Bruin. “It’s a quick turnaround, but there’s no better opponent than Portland.”