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Sounders hoping to flip the script on Timbers

Sounders see match with rivals as a potential turning point in season.

Last Updated
2 min read
It was way back in 2021 that the Sounders last beat the Timbers. | Mike Fiechtner / Sounders FC Communications

RENTON – Momentum is a funny thing. Can one result really turn around a season? There is at least some anecdotal evidence of that happening when the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers face off.

A year ago, the Sounders came into their first match at Providence Park riding high off a 5-1-1 start while the Timbers were limping along at 1-4-2. The Timbers won that game 4-1 with a late avalanche of goals and subsequently went 2-1-2 over their next five. The Sounders, meanwhile, won just 3 of their next 12.

Two years ago it was a similar story. Coming into a match at Lumen Field where they were unveiling their freshly won Concacaf Champions League banner and riding a stretch of six wins in nine league matches, the Sounders were embarrassed with a 3-0 loss to a Timbers squad that was 10th in the table. The Sounders won just 4 of their final 16, while the Timbers lost just 4 of their final 14.

Both teams will be hoping to get a similar boost from Sunday’s encounter as they enter with identical 2-5-4 records. The Sounders have been slowly recovering from a disastrous 0-2-3 start, while the Timbers are mired in an eight-match winless run in which they’ve been outscored 19-12.

“The script is writing itself,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “Both of us feel it’s almost a must-win to catapult our season for us.

“It could give us some real good momentum going into the hardest stretch of games this month. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”

The Sounders are currently in the middle of stretch in which they’ll play 10 games in 34 days, with their next four league matches all against teams in playoff position.

Although the Sounders are technically coming off short rest after playing in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, most of Sunday’s expected starters were given the day off. That the Sounders were still able to advance provided an emotional lift.

“Now it gives us a real good window to take advantage,” Roldan said.

In order to do that, though, the Sounders need to turn around their recent history against the Timbers, who own a six-match unbeaten streak in this rivalry. It’s the longest unbeaten streak either team has enjoyed against one another in a shared history that stretches back to 1975 and across multiple leagues. The Sounders are 8-11-5 against the Timbers during head coach Brian Schmetzer’s tenure.

“It’s too long,” Schmetzer said. “We mentioned it this morning. I didn’t use the word ‘six’ but we haven’t got results there lately. we’re driving the message home. Something needs to change.”

One element of the rivalry that has especially bothered Schmetzer over the years is how the Timbers seem to manage to find extra motivation for this match, while the Sounders have sometimes come out flat. Schmetzer zeroed in on a play by Cody Baker in the Open Cup game to drive home the point of what he’s hoping to see. In the 101st minute, Baker went into a 50-50 challenge, won the ball and knocked the Louisville City player off their feet with a clean shoulder-to-shoulder tackle. Baker took a few moments to say something to the player before walking back to his position.

“It’s a critical game for us to compete,” Schmetzer sid. “We have to fight. I need guys who are ready to play.”