Sounders' Dempsey to taste MLS’ top rivalry

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comAugust 22, 2013 

Clint Dempsey has experienced the English Premier League derby between Fulham and Chelsea. And he has participated in the passionate international meetings between the United States and Mexico.

Come Sunday, he will experience the most passionate rivalry in Major League Soccer as the Portland Timbers visit Seattle Sounders FC before a sellout crowd of around 67,000 at CenturyLink Field.

“It’s big,” Dempsey said. “The fans are really going to be up for it. But, yeah, I’m used the derbies and I’m used to the rivalries and understand it, and hopefully I can open my account this weekend against them.”

It’s likely that Dempsey will have to experience the Seattle-Portland rivalry to fully understand it. But coach Sigi Schmid said he’s sure the Sounders’ new designated player is hearing tales from his teammates.

“I’m sure the guys will get him up,” Schmid said Wednesday. “We’re going to sit him next to Zach Scott for about 15 minutes, and that should do the trick.”

Scott has experienced more Seattle-Portland games than any current Sounders player, counting his six seasons in the USL rivalry and all five seasons since Seattle shifted to MLS.

Still, Dempsey probably has an idea of what to expect based on other experiences around the world.

“I had some good memories playing for Fulham – got some goals against Chelsea,” he said. “Those games are exciting. It’s little victories that you get during the season that sometimes can turn a season around. Hopefully we get the good result on the weekend, and that gives us that push that gets us on a good run of form and (makes) sure we get to the playoffs.”

This Seattle-Portland match also has importance beyond bragging rights.

The Timbers (9-3-12) are tied for second place in the Western Conference after a 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake (12-8-6) on Wednesday.

Seattle is 10-8-4 and seventh in the West, two points short of playoff position, although with at least two games in hand on everyone above them.

ADDED TIME

The Sounders announced that veteran midfielder Blair Gavin signed with the team. Gavin, 24, has three seasons of MLS experience since being drafted 10th overall in the 2010 SuperDraft by Chivas USA. He has appeared in 45 games with Chivas and New England, producing three goals and five assists. Gavin is a native of Arizona and played at the University of Akron. “He is a thinker on the field and has good technical ability,” sporting director Chris Henderson said in a news release. “He has enough MLS experience to help us down the stretch.” … Seattle and U.S. national team forward Eddie Johnson will appear at the Tacoma Mall AT&T Store, 4502 South Steele St., from 6-8 p.m. Friday. Johnson will meet fans and sign autographs. … Obafemi Martins returned to training Wednesday after several days off because of an ankle sprain and his need to tend to family business. Schmid said Martins participated more than expected and hasn’t been ruled in or out for Portland. Johnson also appeared to suffer an ankle injury late in training, but Schmid said he should be OK. … The Sounders are off Thursday. They will work Friday at CenturyLink Field.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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