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. Geoff Cameron takes us behind-the-scenes at Stoke City

    May 22, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    Geoff is finishing the season strong and is working on his upper-body. Geoff is finishing the season strong and is working on his upper-body.

    In his latest blog, our man in the PL gives us a glimpse of what life is like at Stoke’s training ground.

  2. MLS gossip: Del Piero, Cisse, De Rossi all linked with moves to the US

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    UEFA Champions League Final - AC Milan v Liverpool Getty Images

    It’s that time of year again ladies and gents. Get ready for the rumors regarding European veterans heading to MLS.

  3. David Luiz hits out, dismisses reports of him being a “virgin”

    May 22, 2015, 9:56 AM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-LIGUE2-UNFP-AWARDS FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-LIGUE2-UNFP-AWARDS

    The Brazilian defender wants to put the record straight. David, over to you…

  4. Jose Mourinho, Eden Hazard win Premier League Manager, Player of the Year awards

    May 22, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    After already winning two trophies this season, Chelsea cleaned up once again.

  5. Brendan Rodgers insists Raheem Sterling will remain at Liverpool

    May 22, 2015, 8:20 AM EDT

    Liverpool Training Session Liverpool Training Session

    After Sterling’s agent says his client will not sign a new deal at Liverpool, Reds boss is adamant he will remain at Anfield.

  6. MLS preview: Sounders vs. Sporting KC, Revs vs. D.C. United headline Week 12

    May 22, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT

    Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City

    The MLS weekend is upon, and that means just one thing, Americans: It’s time to support your domestic league.

  7. Agent: Rafa Bentiez “would be truly happy” to manage Real Madrid

    May 22, 2015, 12:02 AM EDT

    Rafael Benitez, SSC Napoli Rafael Benitez, SSC Napoli

    Firing one of the world’s elite managers, so you can hire a good-but-not-great replacement? Not smart, Real Madrid, not smart at all.

  8. Scholes: If De Gea leaves, Manchester United should sign Petr Cech

    May 21, 2015, 10:57 PM EDT

    Petr Cech, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    According to Scholes, the solution to Man United’s goalkeeping problem is a no-brainer.

  9. Emmanuel Adebayor given compassionate leave after revealing suicidal thoughts

    May 21, 2015, 9:47 PM EDT

    Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur FC Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur FC

    Well done to Tottenham Hotspur for showing the necessary compassion and taking care of one of their own.

  10. US Open Cup draw: Sounders-Timbers, NYCFC-NY Cosmos highlight possible 4th-round clashes

    May 21, 2015, 8:24 PM EDT

    US Open Cup trophy Getty Images

    The draw for the 4th round of the 2015 US Open Cup tossed up a couple of absolute doozies on Thursday night.

  11. Hodgson: England very happy to take Jack Grealish from Ireland, if he so chooses

    May 21, 2015, 7:23 PM EDT

    Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC

    Jack Grealish has a big decision to make in the not-so-distant future, and it’s going to affect the course of the rest of his career.

  12. War of words: Henry, Giroud trading jabs over Thierry’s “dull” punditry comments

    May 21, 2015, 5:29 PM EDT

    Olivier Giroud, Arsenal FC Olivier Giroud, Arsenal FC

    Thierry Henry is riding Olivier Giroud very hard these days, claiming Arsenal will never win a PL title with him leading the line.

  13. Poland federation president calls for Russia to be stripped of 2018 World Cup

    May 21, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    ZbigniewBoniek Getty Images

    Qatar isn’t the only World Cup host to make others upset.

  14. Trio of corporate sponsors denounce FIFA for migrant worker conditions in Qatar

    May 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    FIFA World Cup trophy Getty Images

    Sponsors hold the one true key to change in Qatar, and strong words are a start.

  15. Final day looming in Spain, France to decide Champions League places

    May 21, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    Gignac Getty Images

    Many European leagues have spots in the big dance still up for grabs.

  16. Young Liverpool pair signs new contract extensions

    May 21, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    Ibe Getty Images

    Jordon Ibe and Jon Flanagan both will stick around Anfield for a while longer.

  17. Hours after Van Praag drops out of FIFA presidential race, Figo does the same

    May 21, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT

    LuisFigo Getty Images

    Only one candidate remains to battle Sepp Blatter, and it doesn’t look good.

  18. One candidate drops out as Blatter’s re-election looks more and more certain

    May 21, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - MAY 20: FIFA President Sepp Blatter delivers a speech during an opening ceremony of a football stadium in Dura el Qar village, West Bank city of Ramallah, on May 20, 2015. (Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The man who’s been investigated by the FBI and green lit loads of allegedly corrupt ideas will continue to rule your favorite sport.

  19. Xavi’s tearful goodbye: Legend confirms move to Al Saad, ending Barca run at 17 years

    May 21, 2015, 10:41 AM EDT

    150521-xavi-ARTICLE Getty Images

    The announcement is the final touch of a poorly-kept secret, and comes with the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League on the horizon.

  20. Vancouver joins Montreal in Canadian final; CONCACAF Champions League berth decided in August

    May 21, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Matias Laba, Benoit Cheyrou AP

    The Impact will be looking for their third-straight Canadian Championship, having defeated TFC and Vancouver in recent campaigns.

Featured video

Championship Sunday: 10 games, 10 channels