Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - The Portland Timbers made quite an impression in their first MLS playoff match on Saturday, going to Seattle and handing the Sounders a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal.
And that result gives the club plenty of confidence ahead of Thursday's return leg in Portland at JELD-WEN Field, which is a place that Timbers head coach Caleb Porter has labeled "a fortress".
"We're one step away," Porter said Saturday after the Timbers' win. "We obviously have to have a good performance next game Thursday at home. But they have to come on our home field and get a piece of us in order to get through, and I like our chances. Obviously, we have to play as well as we did in this game. We have to be as hungry, we have to fight as hard, we have to be as organized."
Portland knows that a draw on Thursday will be enough to reach the Western Conference final, while Seattle must do what only one team did this season, and that is win a match in Portland.
The Timbers put together the top home record in MLS, going 11-1-5 at JELD-WEN Field this season, and that lone defeat came March 9 against Montreal in the second regular-season game of the campaign.
Since Aug. 21, Portland has not allowed a goal at home, a streak that spans 450 minutes and includes five straight clean sheets.
With that in mind it is no wonder the Timbers are in a confident mood ahead of Thursday's match. However, the Sounders find themselves in a familiar position after the first leg, and are not fazed by the deficit.
In the past two seasons Seattle has lost the first leg of a playoff series by a 3-0 score, with the first coming to Real Salt Lake and last season against Los Angeles.
The Sounders were unable to overturn either of those deficits, but the 2-1 score they face is certainly not as big a hurdle.
"I know right now it's not nice, but it doesn't change how we approach the game in Portland," Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said. "We still go out trying to win. That's all we have to do. We just need to win by one goal to get it to overtime."
The reason for optimism in Seattle is the late goal scored by midfielder Osvaldo Alonso which reduced the deficit to 2-1.
A first-half header from Ryan Johnson was followed by Darlington Nagbe's goal in the second half, putting Portland in complete control.
But Alonso scored in stoppage time to hand his team a lifeline, and head coach Sigi Schmid thinks his team is fully capable of going to Portland and getting the necessary result.
"It's halftime of the game," Schmid said after Saturday's defeat. "We feel very confident we can go to Portland and win. Just as Portland came here and won, we feel very confident we can go there and win."
Schmid's team would also be boosted by the return of both Obafemi Martins and DeAndre Yedlin, who are to training this week after missing out on the first leg against Portland.
With forward Lamar Neagle out through suspension because of an accumulation of yellow cards, Martins' return to the lineup would be huge, while Yedlin is hoping to recover in time from an ankle injury to take his place in midfield.