TIGARD, Ore. – The Portland Timbers are one win away from returning to the Western Conference Championship series for the first time since they won MLS Cup in 2015. The Timbers’ archrivals, the Seattle Sounders, are already through and a potential matchup between the two most recent MLS champions is already raising eyebrows.
For the Timbers, however, the only opponent worth thinking about is the Houston Dynamo, who Portland will host on Sunday in the second leg of the Conference Semifinals (7:30 pm ET; FS1 in the US | TSN1, TVAS in Canada).
“We have got to deal with Houston first,” said team captain Liam Ridgewell after training on Friday. “If we start trying to focus on another game then you are going to put yourselves in trouble. First of all, we have got to take care of Houston and if we go through then we will look forward to a game against Seattle. But, like I say, the main important thing is winning on Sunday and getting through.”
Since the Timbers joined MLS in 2011, the Sounders have had the better of the matchup during the regular season, going 9-5-6 in the rivalry. The Timbers have come out on top in the only playoff series between the two teams, beating the Sounders 5-3 on aggregate in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals.
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But, as Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said on Friday, none of that matters unless they beat Houston this weekend. The possibility of facing off against the Sounders does not add any extra motivation for a team that is already as motivated as they can be.
“We are already motivated one hundred percent plus to go through,” said Porter. “Knowing Seattle is on the other side doesn’t change anything because, one, we haven’t gone through, and, two, we are already as motivated as we possibly can be to go through to win a trophy.
“It is not about who is in our way. It is about, ultimately, making sure that in the end we go through to where we want to be. If it is Seattle, so be it. If in the final it is whoever, then so be it. As it happens right now it is Houston that is in our way and we need to find a way to get past them.”
Porter, like his team, is trying to keep his whole focus on the match on Sunday. Until the final whistle, who the Timbers might face in the Conference Finals is irrelevant.
“Right now, I don’t want to waste one percent of a brain cell on thinking about Seattle,” said Porter. “It is irrelevant for me.”