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Sounders hope to break winless streak in Portland rivalry match

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo

The Seattle Sounders limp into Portland Sunday for a big rivalry match against the Timbers. They're experiencing their longest winless streak since their expansion year of 2009.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the Sounders need an attitude adjustment if they hope to beat Portland and move one step closer to the coveted Cascadia Cup.

Keep frustration in check

Art says the Sounders 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night (before a season-high crowd of 46,932) was a let down on more than one level.

"It was really disappointing. The Sounders are on their longest winless streak since their expansion year of 2009. They're not playing well and that must have affected the play Wednesday night because they engaged in two acts of really bad sportsmanship."

Late in the game, Zach Scott received a yellow card for knocking one of the Kansas City players into the boards with a shoulder hit that Art calls "very hockey like."

Then, in stoppage time, Alvaro Fernandez tackled a Kansas City player from behind who was 10 yards away from the ball. Art says it was an uncalled for violation, for which Fernandez received a red card and was ejected from the game.

"Physical soccer is fine but these shots could've caused serious injury. And it came on the day when their own player who was seriously injured, Steve Zakuani, finally was fit enough to be a reserve player. But Sigi Schmid, the head coach, said 'I don't want him in a game like this.'"

Steve Zakuani was seriously injured in a reckless slide tackle by a Colorado Rapids player in April 2011 - breaking his leg in three places. Art says it's taken a lot of painful rehabilitation to get him back to reserve player status. He says that's why the actions of Scott and Fernandez on Wednesday night were so frustrating.

"It really was bad attitude, bad sportsmanship and the Sounders really have to do some rethinking about this because I understand frustration from not playing well but you don't jeopardize people's careers for that and if any team should understand that, it's the Sounders."

Quite a fall from best start

The Sounders' current winless streak of three losses and three draws comes after their best start in team history of 7-1-1.

"Sigi Schmid says he thinks it came to easily earlier in the season and these guys aren't playing as hard now as they were. Well, he's shuffled the lineup a little bit. They have had injuries, they've had poor play, they've had ejections. But, really, this team is not in any way functioning like it was early, and it's falling on Sigi Schmid to find some answers for this because they have a big game on Sunday."

Cascadia Cup rivalry

Art says Sunday's regional rivalry game against the Timbers in Portland is going to be a tough one.

"The Portland fans are at least as rowdy as the Sounders fans. They're going to be ready to agitate, irritate and really annoy the Sounders players. If (the Sounders) don't get better control of their emotions, this game is going to be a mess and it could easily not be a win. So, hands will be full Sunday and a better attitude is really going to do them a lot of good."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.