It should come as no surprise that the Seattle Sounders waited to unveil their CONCACAF Champions League banner until the Portland Timbers came to town.
The rivals, who have represented the Western Conference in the MLS Cup in each of the past seven seasons, will match up for the first time this year Saturday afternoon in Seattle.
Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said he was happy the Sounders decided to celebrate being the first Major League Soccer team to win the continental tournament when the Timbers would be in attendance.
“Of course they are thinking about throwing that in our face. But I think they’re giving us even more motivation, to go there and do our thing,” Savarese said. “I feel that this one is building up a very nice momentum for the environment to be very, very good.”
The Timbers (5-6-8, 23 points) are riding a season-best four-game unbeaten streak (2-0-2), rallying from a two-goal deficit last Sunday for a 2-2 draw at Nashville SC.
Midfielders Diego Chara and Cristhian Paredes are expected to return to the Timbers’ lineup after missing last week’s match with minor injuries. But fellow midfielder Eryk Williamson is considered questionable because of a foot injury.
The Sounders (8-7-2, 26 points) overcame a brief CCL hangover by going 4-1-1 over their past six matches to move into playoff position in the West. They won 2-0 last Saturday at Toronto despite leaving several starters at home to rest.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said forward Raul Ruidiaz would return after missing the past four matches with a hamstring injury. Including the playoffs, Ruidiaz has 10 goals in 11 career MLS games against the Timbers.
“Raul’s gonna start,” Schmetzer said. “He’s ready to go. He’s been a Portland killer.”
Schmetzer might not be on the sidelines, however, as he tested positive for the coronavirus this week.
“I think I have a good chance to be out there Saturday, but just have to follow the (league’s health and safety) protocol,” he said.
The home team has won just two of the rivals’ past 14 regular-season meetings. Last season, the Sounders won 2-1 and 6-2 in Portland; the Timbers won 2-0 at Seattle.
–Field Level Media