Slumping Timbers, Sounders meet today

SEATTLE — In 11/2; seasons of Major League Soccer play, the Portland Timbers have some impressive moments: sweeping Cascadia rival Vancouver a year ago, beating Los Angeles last August when the Galaxy were riding a 14-game unbeaten streak and nearly making the MLS playoffs in their inaugural season.

They still haven't beaten their Interstate 5 rival just three hours to the north.

The most heated rivalry in U.S. soccer steps back into the spotlight this afternoon when the Timbers host the Seattle Sounders in the first of three meetings between the foes this season.

Last year, the Timbers pulled out a 1-1 draw in Seattle, but conceded a pair of second half goals in Portland for a 3-2 loss to the Sounders.

Both times the atmosphere surrounding the games matched the lofty expectations of what the Cascadia rivalry was going to bring to the league.

"Obviously, the first game was up there in Seattle, and me and (Seattle coach) Sigi (Schmid) met each other at the halfway line and shook hands right before the game, and I'll never forget what he said. He said, 'This is what big games are all about.' I couldn't agree more," Portland coach John Spencer said. "I thought the atmosphere was electrifying, then obviously them coming down to Portland was just the same. It was great, great intensity, the fans were out in full force and their voices were singing for 90 minutes."

Right now, Spencer and the Timbers would settle for any victory, whether it came against their rivals or another MLS side. The Timbers are just 3-6-4 overall, tied with Dallas for last in the Western Conference, and have just one victory since mid-April.

Included in Portland's recent struggles was a stunning loss in the U.S. Open Cup to lower-division Cal FC that ruined a potential fourth-round matchup between the Sounders and Timbers. During a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Spencer became upset at the mention of the Cal FC loss and Seattle's subsequent victory over Cal FC in the fourth-round.

"I thought we were here to talk about Seattle," Spencer snapped.

Portland does have just one loss in its last four matches — a 1-0 setback to Los Angeles last Saturday — but has been far from its finest form. Same with Seattle, which saw its winless streak reach six games when the Sounders were only able to manage a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night at home. The six straight league games without a victory match the longest dry spell in franchise history.

"We take it very, very seriously and obviously the last couple of games the results haven't gone our way so that makes it that much more important," Seattle defender Zach Scott said.

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