Sounders, Timbers set for marquee clash
Seattle, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - Two of Major League Soccer's biggest rivals clash on Saturday as Seattle Sounders FC welcome the Portland Timbers to CenturyLink Field in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals.
Seattle struggled mightily down the stretch of the regular season, but exorcised some major demons on Wednesday after topped the Colorado Rapids by a 2-0 score in the knockout round.
The Sounders dominated the first half and earned their first goal of the night in the 28th minute through Brad Evans.
Colorado improved its play in the second half and had several opportunities to find an equalizer and got a huge break three minutes from time when Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning handled the ball outside his 18-yard box and was shown a red card.
But the Rapids got caught on the counter attack in stoppage time when Eddie Johnson fired home the team's second goal of the night.
"It says a lot of the team and its character and knowing we've got to get through this -- we've got to battle, we've got to win," Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. "There wasn't a guy on the field that I didn't think battled and did what they needed to do to help us win this game."
Portland makes its first appearance in the postseason on the back of an outstanding regular season which saw the club lose on five games and win the Western Conference with 57 points.
They enter Saturday's match with plenty of confidence after finishing the regular campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Chivas USA.
First-year head coach Caleb Porter says his team will be ready to play when the match kicks off.
"This group is very, very hungry," Porter said. "And I think they smell a little bit of blood in the water with the playoffs. And I like our chances. Obviously, it's not going to be easy, the teams we're going to have to match up against are very good teams.
"When we put our group together and we get everybody on the same page with regards to playing our style and pressing and attacking, I think you saw what we're capable of," Porter continued. "I wanted to open the floodgates in this game, and sometimes it takes just one game to really get your attack unlocked. It's perfect to get some goals before the playoffs because now that will hopefully jump start our attack."
The Timbers finished the season on an eight-match unbeaten streak, which should give the team plenty of confidence.
"Obviously, it gives us a little boost of confidence," Timbers captain Will Johnson said. "(Diego) Valeri gets a few goals and Rodney Wallace gets another nice goal, and these are guys that we need scoring goals in the playoffs. I think it just gives the team a good boost and a good shutout for our defenders as well, so everybody is going in nice and confident into the biggest games of the year."
In three regular season matches between the Pacific Northwest rivals, each club earned a 1-0 victory with a 1-1 draw between the sides back in March.
11/01 17:11:48 ET