Turning point? Portland Timbers relish huge rivalry victory over Seattle Sounders
Going into Friday night’s Cascadia derby at Providence Park, both the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC were in dire need of a victory to bolster their Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs hopes.
It was the Timbers who got one, taking a 2-1 win over their arch-rivals in another energetic matchup between the Pacific Northwest foes, which featured plenty of end-to-end action, heated exchanges, and even some controversy. The victory also clinched the 2022 Cascadia Cup for the Timbers, giving them the regional trophy they compete for annually with Seattle and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
“We said it many times that this game was very important. I mean, it’s Seattle, first of all. We know that this derby, these types of matches, the Clasicos, however you want to call it, the rivalry is there,” Timbers head coach Gio Savarese said postgame.
“There was a great energy tonight in the stadium. Very good energy. And we felt it, we felt the energy of our times. We know it was going to be tough, playing Seattle is always difficult, Brian [Schmetzer] always does a great job to have their team ready to play and we know that we have to come with a lot of intensity, energy.”
Added midfielder Sebastian Blanco, who scored Friday’s winning goal: “We knew that today if we did not win this game, we are in big trouble. So, now, of course, we are not in the best position, but now we have to take advantage of the momentum. We have a very difficult game moving forward, but if we play the way we did today with the same energy, we can beat any team.”
It’s the type of win that can galvanize a group during the stretch run of the season, something Portland have benefitted from as recently as last season. It was late August of the 2021 campaign when Portland traveled to Lumen Field and took a 2-0 victory that served as a springboard for a run that ultimately ended with the Timbers hosting MLS Cup.
Coming off Friday’s result, Savarese said the hope is his side can channel something similar as they look to make their postseason return. Portland have spent the last several weeks hovering around the seventh and final postseason spot on the West table, with the win over Seattle giving them a temporary hold on that last spot with the rest of Week 27’s results still pending.
“It happened last year,” Savarese said. “So hopefully it happens again this year. So the feeling is that, but now we need to put the work constantly to continue. Of course these are matches that after you get to the end and you win in the way we did today, with the effort that we did today, you feel that we can make a run, that we can together keep on pushing. But we have to stay focused to make sure that we put in the work. It’s not about thinking about it, it’s about every day coming to practice and putting in the work the way we did last year.
“But last year this was the turning point and hopefully we can make it again.”
Far from finished
While the three points are massive as Portland tackle the rest of the stretch run, Savarese emphasized the importance of the group keeping their collective foot on the gas given the congestion still on the West table.
Portland have a daunting slate of opponents looming as they look ahead to the final sprint, starting with a Wednesday away matchup (9 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) against a high-flying Austin FC side that is coming off a potentially defining victory in their own right – a 4-1 blitzing of Supporters’ Shield-leading LAFC at Q2 Stadium earlier on Friday.
“We have a lot of difficult matches coming in front of us,” Savarese said. “We need to be ready. Austin, we saw today, they had a very good result, that’s going to be a difficult game, we need to prepare very well. And this is the time for us to make sure that everyone is as professional as they can be if we want to make a run again and hopefully first make the playoffs, that’s the first goal and one match at a time.”
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