Northwest soccer rivals both thirsting for a win

Jun 22, 2012, 8:38 AM | Updated: Jun 23, 2012, 9:10 am

Their fierce competition dates back to 1975, when both teams kicked the ball in the North American Soccer League. On Sunday, the Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers will be playing for bragging rights.

More importantly, both teams are just trying to get back in win column.

The Sounders are coming off a physically punishing 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City. Seattle has not won an MLS game in its last six tries. They’re currently fourth in the MLS Western Conference.

The injury-riddled Timbers are next to last in the conference table. Portland has tried to improve its roster in recent weeks, including a deal with Montreal for ex-Sounders forward Mike Fucito. He’s obviously itching to face Seattle in this I-5 derby.

“Mike Fucito scores two goals. That’s what I’m hoping for,” he told reporters after practice in Portland this week. “It’s hard not to think about this game. Obviously it’s one you check off at the beginning of the year. I’m just looking to make my mark in Portland, and it just so happens my next opportunity is against my former team.”

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid referred to his club as the “big brother” in a USA Today story this week. Schmid is obviously not worried about giving the Timbers any bulletin board material.

“The rivalry exists, and I don’t think it matters what we said,” Schmid said in our Coach’s Corners interview. “I think they’re motivated. We’re ready for the game. I don’t think you can up the ante on this game.”

The Sounders were 1-0-1 against the Timbers last season en route to locking up the 2011 Cascadia Cup. That fan sponsored tournament includes the other Pacific Northwest rival team, the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Portland is a dangerous club in cozy Jeld-Wen Field, boasting a 3-2-2 record. They’re winless on the road.

Injuries have taken a toll on the Timbers’ defense. Eric Brunner and Rodney Wallace both watched practice this week. Newly acquired forward Danny Mwanga is also nursing an injury.

Seattle’s lineup will be missing Alvaro Fernandez. The Uruguayan midfielder drew a red card for his hard tackle in the Kansas City match. Central defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is available after serving his own one-game suspension for a red card.

Goalkeeper Andrew Weber played well in his Sounders debut, including a diving save late in the Kansas City match.

This will be an interesting match for retired Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who joins ESPN’s national television coverage in the Rose City. Keller played at the University of Portland.

Ross Fletcher handles play-by-play at 2 p.m. Sunday on 97.3 KIRO FM. Matt Johnson hosts the pregame show live from Portland starting at 1:30.

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Northwest soccer rivals both thirsting for a win