The Seattle Sounders’ match against the Portland Timbers on Sunday is a Cascadia Cup rivalry game.
It will mark the home debut of new Seattle designated player Clint Dempsey.
It will draw the largest crowd of this Major League Soccer season.
And yet it remains just another game for Timbers first-year coach Caleb Porter.
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“I’ve never been a big believer in the big game because it takes away from the other games,” Porter said in a conference call Friday. “The reality is every game — as cliché as it sounds — is a big game. In this league, points are points. What I’ve tried to build is a culture where the players treat every game like it’s the biggest game.”
Porter’s approach has worked so far. After failing to make the playoffs in their first two MLS seasons, the Timbers have the fewest losses and the highest points-per-game average in the league. Their 9-3-12 record has
them tied for second in the West and three points back in the Supporters’ Shield race.
That’s a quick turnaround for a club that went 8-16-10 last season, one step from the Western Conference basement.
“I never wanted to have a transition year,” Porter said. “We didn’t publicly make all these bold statements of what we were going to do. But internally we were always talking about in this first year trying to be one of the better teams in the league and trying to make the playoffs. We’re just scratching the surface. We’re nowhere near where we want to be, but I think it’s been a good evolution. We’re in a position to make the playoffs, and that’s where we want to be.”
That’s also where Seattle wants to be, but the Sounders have climbing to do. They will enter this match with a 10-8-4 record — two points and two positions shy of the fifth and final playoff spot in the West.
And while the possible three points Sunday would benefit Seattle equally to three points in any other game, coach Sigi Schmid isn’t spending much time depicting this as just another game.
“You recognize it’s your rival,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what position you are in the standings; it’s always going to be an important game. Maybe it takes on a little more significance right now because they feel, ‘Hey, we’re on top of them right now, we’re ahead of them in the standings,’ and maybe they think the power has shifted. And it’s up to us to come out and re-establish ourselves possibly or establish that the power hasn’t shifted — either way you want to look at it. But at the end of the day, it’s always going to be a big game.”
Schmid outlined the club’s thinking regarding the Wednesday signing of midfielder Blair Gavin, 24, who was the 10th overall pick in the 2010 SuperDraft.
“If we can get something from him this season, great, but it’s a little more with an eye toward next season,” Schmid said. “I just think he needed to get back into daily training with an MLS team. ... When he came out of college, he was a guy we were very interested in, and I think he can get back to that level.”
Gavin expressed gratitude for the chance to resurrect his career after three seasons with Chivas USA and New England, and a preseason car accident that injured his back.
“I’m very thankful for Seattle and Sigi for giving me this opportunity, where a lot of clubs shied away from it,” he said. “But he was there and has a lot of faith in me, and I hope that I can return with quality play on the field.”
TRIO TRAINS, MIGHT PLAY
Osvaldo Alonso, Obafemi Martins and Djimi Traore all trained Friday, and Schmid indicated all could contribute Sunday.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer