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MLS Footnote: Sounders-Timbers still have the best rivalry in the league

By Doug McIntyre
Writer Football Sports FOX

Editor’s Note: The MLS Footnotes get you into the main talking points in American league and football.

As MLS starting Rivalry Week, one vengeful match still stands above the others.

While much of this weekend’s attention will center on Friday’s El Trafico between league leaders LAFC — who could debut with summer signings Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini — and five-time champions LA Galaxy, the most authentic rivalry in American and Canadian football. still one. that preceded MLS by 27 years: Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers.

Sounders-Timbers goes back to 1975, when the two played in the old North American Football League. They push each other on and off the pitch; one of two clubs to have appeared in each of the last seven MLS Cup finals, Seattle winning twice and Portland once. And while it won’t be a star-studded affair like Los Angeles’ latest skirmish, there will be a lot at stake when the pair meet for the first time this season on Saturday (16:30 ET FOX/FOX Deportes/FOX Sports app) in Seattle.

Now seventh in the Western Conference, the Sounders have continued to climb the table since becoming the first MLS team to clinch the CONCACAF Champions League title in May. After winning just three of their first 10 games while coach Brian Schmetzer and his players prioritized making history, Seattle have played themselves back into the playoffs with a 6W-2L-1T record in their last nine games.

Rave Green beat Toronto FC 2-0 on the road last weekend although many of their top players, including Stefan Frei, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, Raúl Ruidíaz, and Albert Rusnák, were rested by Schemtzer or, in Ruidíaz’s case, not quite ready to return. from a hamstring injury. Seattle is the clear favorite (-118) against a Timbers side who, despite being unbeaten in their last four games, are still languishing in 10th place in the West and in danger of missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2016.

Neither of those will matter at the opening whistle. In a parity-driven MLS landscape, competitive play is defined by will as well as skill. Need proof? While MLS clubs boast greater home court advantages than their NBA, NHL, NHL or Major League Baseball counterparts, the home team have won just two of the last 14 regular season encounters between Seattle and Portland. With the Sounders celebrating their CONCACAF crown by waving their championship banner on Lumen Field ahead of Saturday’s contest, count on the visitors to do everything possible to spoil their foe’s head feast.

“We wanted to be first, and now that Seattle is doing it, we’re pissed,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said in Thursday’s pre-match news conference. “We want to always be on top of Seattle.”

Schmetzer could miss the game after contracting COVID-19. But the coach confirmed on Friday that Ruidíaz will return to the Sounders line-up for the first time since scoring twice in the 4-0 win over Vancouver on June 14.

With 10 goals in 11 career games, the Peruvian striker has been very cold-blooded against the Timbers since arriving in the Pacific Northwest after the 2018 World Cup. No MLS player has been more prolific against a single foe over the past five seasons.

The Sounders are next two games after Saturday’s trips to Nashville and Chicago, so securing all three points ahead of what promises to be another big crowd in the Pacific Northwest is crucial. “It’s a very emotional game, it doesn’t matter [what],” said Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe, a Seattle native, earlier this week. We knew they would be excited.”

FOOTNOTE

1. Williamson goes full circle

Saturday’s game should be a special one for Portland midfielder Eryk Williamson. The 25-year-old was enjoying a career season last August when it was cut short by the ACL tear he suffered in Seattle. The injury comes just weeks after Williamson started for the US men’s national team in his Gold Cup final win over Mexico. That forced him to miss Portland’s record in 2021 title games, overall World Cup qualifiers, and the first month of the 2022 campaign.

Now Williamson is rounding off to pre-injury form. With five assists in his last seven games – including one off the bench in a 2-2 comeback in Nashville on July 4 – it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Timbers.

Will that be enough to get Williamson back with the national team before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar in November? It can. A source familiar with the discussions said US coach Gregg Berhalter had originally planned to include Williamson in the June squad before both parties agreed he would remain with the Timbers this summer. But with his stake rising and a place or two in midfield still up for grabs, don’t be surprised if Williamson is on the list when the US face Japan and Saudi Arabia in their last two World Cup games in Europe in September.

2. Can Charlotte qualify for the playoffs?

Only a handful of expansion teams reach the postseason in their first year. Despite a slow start, Charlotte FC had a chance. Heading into Saturday’s clash against MVP candidates Hany Mukhtar and Nashville (7pm FS1/FOX Deportes/FOX Sports app), these rookies sit just two points behind New England Revolutiuon, who occupy the seventh and final place in the playoffs in the East.

To make the run serious, they’ll need more of Poland striker Karol Widerski, who started 2022 with four goals in four games but hasn’t added another since March.

3. Herrera to debut against FC Dallas

Bale and Chiellini are not the only former European club stars expected to play their first minutes in MLS during Rivalry Week. On Saturday, Mexico national team and former Atlético Madrid midfielder Hector Herrera is expected to make his Houston Dynamo debut against FCD. Dynamo are currently 11th in the West.

While Herrera, who was re-signed on March 2, is finally ready to leave after finishing the Atléti season, fans in Toronto will have to wait a little longer to see Lorenzo Insigne. TFC coach Bob Bradley said this week that Insigne had not fully recovered from the injury he sustained playing for Italy in June and would not be available for another few weeks.

4. Toronto is still shopping?

The stuttering Reds have officially signed Italian defender Domenico Criscito this week, and may not finish attacking Serie A for reinforcements. Several reports this week suggest that TFC are on the verge of signing Azzurri midfielder Federico Bernardeschi from Juventus on a free transfer.

Toronto traded designated player and MLS 2020 MVP Alejandro Pozuelo to Inter Miami on Thursday, opening up a roster spot that could be filled by 28-year-old Bernardeschi. Considering his age, this is arguably an even bigger coup than Insigne. Whether that’s enough to help reverse TFC’s terrible season (5W-10L-3T) is another matter.

5. Goofy season in full swing

With transfer windows now open on both sides of the Atlantic, there has been a lot of movement around the league. Revolution replaces Poland national team striker Adam Buksa, who left for French club Lens last month, with Juventus forward Giacomo Vrioni. The 23-year-old Vrioni could debut for the Revs on Saturday against New York City FC.

Elsewhere, the Galaxy landed Uruguayan defensive midfielder Gaston Brugman from Serie A’s Parma, while Austin FC added Ecuador international winger Washington Corozo on loan from Sporting Cristal Peru.

Going the other way was a pair of homegrown youths, Philadelphia Union midfielder Jack de Vries and DC United forward Griffin Yow. De Vries will join former MLS players Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessman with Venezia in Italy’s second division, with Yow heading for Westerlo in Belgium’s top division.

6. USL transfers show no signs of slowing down

The lower divisions of the United Soccer League are also busy moving young American players. Last month, Real Salt Lake signed U.S. Under-20 playmaker Diego Luna from El Paso Locomotive in the USL Championship, while reigning champions Orange County SC dispatched 18-year-old Kobi Henry — whose agent (and former Revs coach) Brad Friedel says has several offers from MLS clubs — to French Ligue 1 club Reims.

“It’s always been my dream to play in Europe,” Henry told FOX Sports last month. “The French Ligue suits me very well.”

Terms were not disclosed, but reports put Henry’s transfer fee at around $700,000, the most profitable in USL history. That could soon be surpassed by the prized Louisville City centre-back, Joshua Wynder.

Clubs from across MLS are high at 17 years old, which some sources say is good enough to start in the domestic league now. Will anyone be willing to pay the Louisville asking price? Don’t be surprised if the Kentucky native ends up in Europe at seven-figure costs.

“As our league grows, we will see this happen more and more often,” USL sporting director Mark Cartwright told FOX Sports in a recent interview. “MLS is like any other league in the world – they have to pay fair market value for our players or they will go elsewhere. That’s how it should be.”

One of North America’s most prominent football journalists, Doug McIntyre has covered United States men and women’s national team in more than a dozen countries, including several FIFA World Cups. Prior to joining FOX Sports, the New York City native was staff writer for Yahoo Sports and ESPN.


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MLS Footnote: Sounders-Timbers still have the best rivalry in the league

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