By JASON MITCHELL
The Seattle Sounders might be a sixth seed coming off a tough road loss to the Houston Dynamo, but all indications suggest the fifth-year club will pose a formidable opponent for the Portland Timbers in Sunday night’s nationally televised match at CenturyLink Field.
Management expects the stadium to be packed to its 67,000-seat capacity for Clint Dempsey’s home debut, and suffice it to say the team is no slouch in front of large crowds.
Seattle is 7-0-2 when CenturyLink attendance tops 40,000, and outscores opponents 23-8 in the process. The Sounders are also 4-0 in front of crowds larger than 55,000, trouncing visitors by a combined score of 11-1.
Portland lost in Seattle 3-0 in front of 66,452 last season, but Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid knows his team won’t be facing last season’s Portland Timbers this weekend.
“It’s going to be extra special [Sunday] because of the crowd and everything, but also because Portland’s a very, very good team right now and a team that’s ahead of us in the standings,” Schmid told reporters after practice this week. “We haven’t been in that position. For us, the game and the result are very important Sunday.”
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DEMPSEY STILL FINDING FORM
Seattle’s offense looks more impressive than ever on paper. But with Dempsey still working his way toward midseason form and still getting to know his teammates, Schmid knows it might be a while until that potential fully translates to the pitch.
“He’s getting there. He’s still trying to get his form,” Schmid said about Seattle’s newest Designated Player. “He’s still a little bit in preseason. He and I talked about that today a little bit. I said I didn’t want him to put too much pressure on himself. He puts pressure on himself enough as it is. I just want him to relax and play, and the goals and assists will come. I think he’s still probably two, three, four games away from getting to the point where I’d say he’s sharp.”
That doesn’t mean Dempsey isn’t impressing.
“He made a move today at practice where I was like, ‘Whoa. That was different. I didn’t expect that,’” Schmid said. “He just beat a guy cleanly.”
GAVIN SIGNING ADDS MIDFIELD DEPTH
On Wednesday the Sounders announced the signing of Blair Gavin, onetime Chivas USA and New England Revolution midfielder. Drafted 10th overall in the 2010 SuperDraft, Gavin made 31 starts in 43 appearances for Chivas before heading to New England during the 2012 season. The Arizona native and former Akron Zip has compiled three goals and five assists in Major League Soccer.
Gavin joins a talented and deep midfield in Seattle that will already be making room for either Dempsey or Eddie Johnson. The Sounders have battled injuries all year, though, and in all likelihood will lose Dempsey, Johnson, and Brad Evans to stretches of national team duty.
“Blair has been training with us for a few weeks and we are very happy to add him to our group,” sporting director Chris Henderson said in a press release. ”He is a thinker on the field and has good technical ability. He has enough MLS experience to help us down the stretch.”
What do you think? Will Portland snap Seattle’s unbeaten streak? Think Dempsey snags a goal in his debut even if he’s not in midseason form? Will Gavin find a way to contribute in a midfield?
Share your thoughts below.