TUKWILA, Wash. – Aside from his head coach, Brad Evans is about the only one who has been there for all the moments, games and events that have helped define the Seattle Sounders and the wild success of the franchise.
Sunday night will be another one of those memorable events for the Sounders when the second-largest crowd for an MLS regular-season game – about 67,000 fans – is expected to see the home side face rival Portland in Clint Dempsey’s first home match with Seattle.
The Sounders have played twice with Dempsey, both on the road in Toronto and Houston. It’s just luck of the schedule that his home debut comes against Seattle’s most heated rival with CenturyLink Field having been sold out for a couple of weeks.
“It’s great things are moving in that direction,” Dempsey said about the attention on Sunday’s match. “The game is growing here, as you can see – more franchises popping up, more soccer-specific stadiums. It’s awesome to be a part of, helping continue the growth of the game here. The most important thing is to make sure we’re successful here in Seattle and we get the job done.”
While bragging rights and positioning in the Cascadia Cup rivalry between Seattle, Portland and Vancouver will always be at stake anytime the three sides are facing off, Sunday’s match brings a new aspect that hasn’t been there the last two seasons: a legitimate fight for playoff positioning with two months left in the regular season.
Portland enters the match unbeaten in its last three and in second place in the Western Conference.
The Sounders are still playing catch up. Entering the weekend they are two points behind Vancouver for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but have played the fewest league matches in MLS.