October 4th, 2012 by Kelly McLain
There are a few different plot points emerging this week as the Portland Timbers get set to travel north to take on the Seattle Sounders on Sunday: a chance to win the Cascadia Cup; perhaps the best rivalry in North American soccer; and a crowd close to 67,000 is expected to show up. But there is yet another storyline that has taken a backseat during derby week: the elusive road win.
It’s been over a calendar year since the Timbers won an away match.
Ya, exactly. Let that sink in for a moment.
It’s been a hot topic all season long, but with everything else about the upcoming match taking center stage, the road form discussion has gotten a bit of breather the past few days.
“Obviously it’s been a rough year for us on the road,” said captain Jack Jewsbury after Thursday’s training session,” But it would be great for us to get our first one in Seattle.”
There’s a chance to kill two birds with one stone on Sunday. With a win, the team would also secure the Cascadia Cup for the first time since 2010. But perhaps more importantly, it would be the first time the Timbers took the trophy home where the competition included all three teams (in ‘09 and ‘10 the Cup was fought over between just Portland and Vancouver while they were in the lower divisions and Seattle was in MLS). A win however, isn’t required. A tie will see the Timbers lift the Cascadia Cup as well.
But any result will be hard to come by. Portland could be without some key players and they will be facing a hostile, and very large, crowd. More than 66,000 tickets have been distributed so far which will make Sunday’s crowd the largest to see an MLS game this season, and put it in the top ten of all-time MLS games. Some reports have even said it could be the third largest crowd this weekend in all of world football.
“This will definitely be the biggest and largest crowd I’ve played in front of in an MLS game,” Jewsbury said. “We’re going over a little bit more of where guys need to be because the reality of it is that once you get on the field it’s going to be very hard to hear one another.”
Communication will be more difficult because of the noise, but that won’t be the only thing working against the Timbers. Some of the regular starters may still not be available. Diego Chara has missed the past three games with a groin injury, Hanyer Mosquera left midway through the last match with a pulled hamstring, and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts hasn’t played since the previous match against Seattle on September 15th when he left due to a shoulder separation.
[Donovan Ricketts] is still a big question mark, Diego Chara is still a big question mark,” interim coach Gavin Wilkinson said. “[Hanyer Mosquera] is 50/50…It’s a very important game so we would like to field the best team available, but that team has to be healthy.”
Whether it’s the first-choice starting eleven or not, the Timbers have a unique opportunity to make history, and avoid making history, at the same time.
“The Cascadia Cup is obviously something that’s first and foremost,” Jewsbury said. “But the reality is we also don’t want to go down in history as a team that didn’t get a road win.”