Skip to content

MLS Playoff Preview: Seattle Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers, first leg

Oct 31, 2013, 7:45 PM EDT

Eddie Johnson, Jack Jewsbury AP
  • First Cascadia Cup rivalry playoff matchup in MLS history. Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers split three regular-season games in 2013, each winning one and one ending in a tie.
  • Seattle will be on short rest, having played Wednesday in the play-in game and defeated the Colorado Rapids, 2-0. The Sounders won’t have to travel, but they’ll be without starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who was sent off.
  • This is Portland’s first MLS playoff game in franchise history, while Seattle looks to avoid a heavy loss in the first leg similar to those that led to elimination the past two seasons.

Major League Soccer has its dream playoff matchup, as Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers get set to face off over two legs. More than 50,000 fans will pass through the turnstiles across those two games, providing a good advertisement for the league to fans watching the MLS playoffs.

The teams met three times in three different leagues’ playoffs throughout the years. Portland won in the 1975 North American Soccer league quarterfinals, while Seattle won both the 2004 A-League conference semifinals and the 2005 USL First Division first round. The first two series went to extra time, while the USL-1 series ended 3-0.

Watch Sounders-Timbers (Sat., 10 pm ET) on NBC Sports Live Extra

Based on the last regular-season meeting between these teams, the fireworks on the field shouldn’t be far behind. Timbers midfielder Kalif Alhassan scored the only goal of the game just before halftime, and Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso saw a straight red card for an elbow to Will Johnson’s face behind the play.

It was another moment of bad blood between two bitter rivals. Last year, Fredy Montero and Lovel Palmer both received red cards in the same match. Not to mention the words and trash talk that have flown back and forth down Interstate-5 among the years.

source: AP

The Timbers’ Caleb Porter is an MLS Coach of the Year candidate after leading one of the biggest turnarounds in league history between 2012 and 2013. (Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP)

Home-field advantage has proven to be huge in this matchup the last couple seasons, especially if the Sounders draw a large crowd. The Timbers escaped with a point in an early season game this year, then lost by a single goal in their second visit to CenturyLink Field in front of 67,385. Likewise, Portland won by Alhassan’s lone marker three weeks ago at JELD-WEN Field.

On only five occasions throughout the season have Caleb Porter’s men failed to get at least a tie on the road and all three points at home, which bodes well for the rookie coach in his club’s debut playoff series. However, that season of consistency is only a memory in the playoffs, when a single mistake, injury or red card could cost a team its season.

Meanwhile, the Sounders have finally started to figure out how to be effective with Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson on the field at the same time. A change to a diamond midfield formation a couple games ago has given Seattle two of its best recent performances, with Dempsey scoring once and assisting once and Johnson adding a goal of his own.

Obafemi Martins could still be out for the first leg with a groin injury, though, giving Lamar Neagle another chance at the forward spot next to Johnson. In goal, Marcus Hahnemann will take over for Gspurning, as he did before the loss earlier this month against the Timbers.

For Portland, Maximiliano Urruti and Diego Valeri continue to manage their injuries. Urruti hasn’t played since leaving the Seattle game with a hamstring strain, while Valeri has played through some pain caused by an adductor strain through the last couple weeks of the season.

As it happens with all rivalry games, the team that can rise above the emotion and intensity to play its best soccer will win. And any team that survives a Cascadia playoff series will be dangerous to play in the rest of the post-season.

(MORE: Goalkeeping drama leaves hometown hero between pipes for rivalry match)

(MORE: Seattle Sounders’ new system allows star attackers to shine)

(MORE: Football Focus: Portland Timbers tactically transform under Caleb Porter in 2013)

Latest Posts
  1. Tottenham Hotspur offer $26 million plus Andros Townsend for Jay Rodriguez

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    350x AP

    Spurs could be back in for Rodriguez, as third bid made for England international.

  2. Reports place Welbeck at Arsenal’s training ground, but that’s because so is England

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:27 PM EDT

    Photo credit: Squawka Photo credit: Squawka

    Reports are exploding that Welbeck’s location lends itself to a shock move to Arsenal, but we’re not so sure.

  3. Burnley sign young Chelsea midfielder Nathan Chalobah on loan

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    Chalobah Getty Images

    It’s the fourth loan spell for Chalobah, who will get his first taste of Premier League play.

  4. Hull City breaks club transfer record to sign Abel Hernandez

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Hernandez Getty Images

    A fee of around $15 million breaks Hull City’s transfer record for a player.

  5. Julian Green completes loan move to Hamburg

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:46 AM EDT

    Green Getty Images

    A season-long move to last year’s relegation threatened squad will see Green get valuable playing experience.

  6. Fiorentina announce Giuseppe Rossi will undergo more knee surgery

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:23 AM EDT

    Rossi Getty Images

    The 27-year-old midfielder can’t catch a break, as his knee fails him yet again.

  7. Reports: Sandro having a medical at QPR and fee agreed for Borini

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:57 AM EDT

    Sandro AP

    Down the depth chart at Spurs, Sandro could be on his way to QPR. Borini would be a backup plan to Jermain Defoe.

  8. Premier League Playback – Deadline Day madness, Chelsea’s ‘killers,’ Liverpool’s fluid-three

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Manchester United Angel Di Maria AP

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from Week 3 in the PL.

  9. LIVE Transfer Ticker – Deadline Day updates

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:06 AM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Stay up to date with everything happening on Deadline Day with our live ticker.

  10. Report: Marco Verratti to sign new PSG contract

    Sep 1, 2014, 9:39 AM EDT

    Verratti

    Rumored to be wanted by Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, the young Italian star will instead stay at his current home.

  11. Transfer Rumor Roundup: Deadline Day Morning edition

    Sep 1, 2014, 8:35 AM EDT

    Alderweireld Getty Images

    There’s going to be plenty of movement today, and the early morning brings us news on Jay Rodriguez, Alvaro Negred, Matija Nastasic, and more.

  12. Reports: Manchester United nearing cut-price loan for Falcao

    Sep 1, 2014, 7:55 AM EDT

    Falcao AP

    Manchester United are reportedly close to securing a world-class striker for just $9 million.

  13. Done Deal: Transfer activity roundup

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT

    Cerezo Osaka v Manchester United Getty Images

    Roundup of football transfers across Europe today.

  14. Ancelotti: Real Madrid’s ‘attitude and concentration’ must change

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-PSG-PRESSER

    Real Madrid manager insisted that his squad just lost focus on Sunday when they were upset by Real Sociedad.

  15. Darren Fletcher ‘confident’ Manchester United will trump struggles

    Aug 31, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Galatasaray - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Darren Fletcher isn’t perturbed by Manchester United’s super-early season struggles.

  16. Toronto FC confirms Jermain Defoe transfer talks have taken place

    Aug 31, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT

    Toronto FC's Jermain Defoe scores from the penalty spot against San Jose Earthquakes during first half MLS action in Toronto on Saturday June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young) AP

    Jermain Defoe has been linked away from Toronto FC, with a possible return back to England.

  17. HIGHLIGHTS: Real Madrid falls to Real Sociedad in remarkable comeback

    Aug 31, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

    _77293433_hi023702086 Getty Images

    Real Madrid didn’t display their standard victorious level of play as Real Sociedad shocked Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

  18. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 2-0 New York Red Bulls

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

    D.C. United keeps strong at the head of the Eastern Conference, defeating the New York Red Bulls, 2-0.

Featured video

Week 3: Saturday Premier League recap