TUKWILA, Wash. — For the second time in the MLS era of the rivalry, the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers will clash in the MLS Cup playoffs. For Nicolas Lodeiro and the rest of the Sounders, the challenge of the upcoming series is how to balance the adrenaline of the rivalry with the need to keep level heads in the postseason.
“It’s going be a final,” Lodeiro said through a translator Friday. “They know us and we know them, but each game is different. We have to be concentrated and play a good 180 minutes. We have to be intelligent and stay concentrated.”
Seattle’s previous run-in against Portland in the Western Conference semifinals in 2013 ended in disaster: a 2-1 loss at CenturyLink Field in the first leg gave way to a 5-3 aggregate loss, with Seattle’s two road goals coming late in the second match at Providence Park.
Although Brian Schmetzer insists the picture he once kept on his computer of Caleb Porter glaring at the Sounders bench following that series is “old news” he also admits that it served an important purpose.
“Caleb looking at our bench; Is that even a problem? No,” he said. “It was a reminder for me that that series hurt because we got outplayed. Credit to Portland, they beat us fair and square, so I don’t have much recourse other than keeping that as a reminder of ‘okay, what could we have done better?’ so that the next time we come up against them, that same thing doesn’t happen.
“This adds spice to the mix. You’ve got (playoffs with Portland in) 1975, 2004, 2005, 2013, which we didn’t like of course. Now you’ve got 2018. You add a little bit to it. It’s going to be a mentally challenging match. The physicality, making sure the confidence prevails. We can’t get into a bar fight, but if it comes to a bar fight we’ve got to be prepared. It’s an interesting opponent. I think the league does like it. The league, the fans, it’ll get everybody jazzed up.”
Now, Seattle will look to reverse the result from 2013. This time, Seattle is the team with greater rest, making a short road trip to take on a team that will be without center back Larrys Mabiala due to a red card suspension and must play on short rest from a midweek road trip to FC Dallas on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a good fight for the fans and we want to show appreciation for them,” Gustav Svensson said. “We want to win this game not only for us but for the fans as well. We know this game means a lot for the franchise. It’s an important game, not only for the playoff but because it’s our rivals.”
As for how Seattle will approach the match, the advantage in rest and the recent memory of a 1-0 win in Portland back on Aug. 26, Schmetzer intimated that he intended to take the game to the Timbers in both legs.
“We want to win both games. That’s the objective. We will not play just for a draw. We will go out and try and score.”