View From The Inside: Who is under more pressure?

Prost Amerika's Steve Clare looks at a Seattle side eager to move up in the standings

Bright Dike, Timbers vs. Sounders, 9.15.12

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Ethan Erickson

One thing the Cascadia Cup match on Sunday between Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers is not short of is narratives (6pm PT - ESPN750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940).

Both clubs remain in contention for the Cascadia Cup.

For Portland, it is all they are in contention for and while nobody in the Rose City would claim it would completely rescue a difficult season, it would certainly make a troubled one considerably better.

It would probably suffice to draw a line under Gavin Wilkinson’s short reign as interim head coach with a star, if not quite a gold star, affixed to the page.

The Oregon club needs a point from the match to secure the Cup on the day although defeat merely postpones that chance a few days to their visit to Vancouver later in the month.

For Seattle, there is plenty else to focus on.

The Cascadia Cup is very important to the fans, and rightly so, but if you gave the coach a choice between the Cascadia Cup and a last four place in MLS, there can be little doubt which he would choose.

Winning the Cascadia Cup would be a short term boon for the fans but failing to surpass the finishing point of the last three seasons would be a long term burden for the club to carry especially before a fanbase increasingly anxious to see real MLS success, as opposed to ‘doing quite well for a new club’.

Now it is not a case of one or the other. Sounders FC are locked in a three horse race with Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake for the two final spaces that will grant an automatic last eight place. The side that fails to make it will have a one legged home tie with either Vancouver Whitecaps or FC Dallas to make the last eight.

Words cannot convey how little Sigi Schmid wants a piece of that play-in game. Words probably can convey how little Bruce Arena wants of it, but we probably couldn’t print them.

The narratives are plenty. So is the pressure for both sides. So who is under more?

This is not Portland’s last Cascadia Cup game. They still have yet another chance to clinch the Cup when they visit Vancouver, regardless of the result on Sunday.

Sounders are perhaps relieved only by the fact LA Galaxy are facing Real Salt Lake on the day before and both their rivals cannot win. However, a home game against a bottom half side represents the easiest chance to sweep up three points that will reinstate them as firmish favorites to make the Top 3.

One win in four MLS games against Portland is also a poor return.

Add in the previous three games without a win, and it could be said that the Sounders are under slightly more pressure.

That said, a side that has played four Open Cup Finals and six play-off games in four seasons knows all about pressure.

They may be under slightly more. That doesn’t mean they cannot handle it better.

Steve Clare is Editor of Prost Amerika Soccer and President of the North American Soccer Reporters.