SEATTLE – It's a MLS regular season game. The winner will get three points, or a tie will mean each team earns a point. In terms of the standings, it's just another game.
With CenturyLink Field already sold out and expecting over 67,000 fans, new Sounders acquisition Clint Dempsey set to make his home debut, and with the Portland Timbers in town contesting the league's fiercest rivalry, Sunday's game will be anything but ordinary.
“You recognize its your rival and it doesn't matter what position you are in the standings,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said after training Friday. “It's always going to be an important game.”
In addition to the aforementioned factors, Sunday's match will take on extra importance because the Timbers, unlike their first two seasons in the league, have the opportunity to both make the playoffs and finish ahead of their fierce rival in the standings.
Portland sits in third place in the Western Conference, in the midst of its most successful season to date. After a slow start, Seattle is on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, five points back of Portland, but with two games in hand.
“Maybe it takes on a little more significance right now because they feel 'Hey we're on top of them right now, we're ahead of them in the standings and maybe the power has shifted,'” Schmid said. “So it's up to us to come out and reestablish ourselves.”
For a team that averages over 40,000 fans and routinely delivers one of the most raucous atmospheres in MLS, Sunday should still be an extraordinary day in the history of the Sounders franchise.
With the biggest crowd to ever see a soccer game in Seattle expected, the Emerald City Supporters, known for their massive tifo displays, are set to unveil the largest CenturyLink Field has ever seen.
“It's something you gotta get excited about,” Schmid said. “It's got to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck and you get there and hopefully the players can take that emotion and don't turn it into overexcitement.”
The fans, and Schmid, will hope to see Clint Dempsey get on the scoresheet for the first time with the Sounders in his third game since joining the team from Tottenham.
“It's just a matter of he not putting so much pressure on himself to try and get that first goal or try and get that first assist,” Schmid said. “Just let it come and I think once it comes he'll be settled and I think it will help our team.”
Whether Dempsey gets on the board or not, Sunday is likely to be one of the more memorable regular season games in the league's history, and one which will be remembered for much more than the impact it has on the league standings.