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Sounders' Schmid 'not surprised' by Porter's first-year success

The all-time leader in MLS coaching victories says he's not surprised at the success of his young rival, Caleb Porter of the Portland Timbers.

"Not surprised at all," Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said Thursday, as his club prepared to meet the Timbers in a two-game, aggregate-goal MLS Western Conference semifinal series.

Porter, in his first year after leaving as coach at the University of Akron, guided the Timbers to the best regular-season record in the Western Conference.

"He's a student of the game," Schmid said. "He's a good coach. He was a good coach in college. Coaching is coaching. There are certain adjustments you have to make, but if you're a quality coach you figure that out, and it doesn't take you a decade.

"(The Timbers) have had a good attitude and a good approach all season. His transition to the pro game is not any faster nor any slower than I expected it to be."

The Sounders, meanwhile, have a fast transition to continue to make by Saturday, when they play host to the Timbers at 7 p.m. at CenturyLink Field in game one of the series. Seattle beat visiting Colorado 2-0 on Wednesday, bouncing the Rapids out of the playoffs and keeping the Sounders alive, despite their meager 0-4-3 finish to the 34-game regular season.

That slide included a 1-0 loss at Portland on Oct. 13.

"Obviously, we'd have liked to have ended the season on a more positive note," Schmid said. "With the injuries and the call-ups and the lineups we've had to play, to catch momentum now is fantastic, if we can."

Game two of the conference semis will be at Jeld-Wen Field at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 7. It will be Seattle's third game in seven days, raising questions about the Sounders' ability to sustain their energy.

"It's a mind over matter thing," Schmid said.

Optimistically, he added, "Sometimes you get into a playing rhythm, and the guys feel comfortable with that and they'd rather play than train, anyway. Often times I've felt in past years, when we've had Champions League and things like that, when we were in a rhythm we've played some of our best soccer."

One player Schmid hopes will be able to find a rhythm is goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who appeared in only four games this season but will be thrust into duty after a bizarre red card issued to first-stringer Michael Gspurning for handling a ball out of the penalty box in the 85th minute of the Colorado match. Gspurning must sit on Saturday's Portland game.

Hahnemann played at Jeld-Wen Field on Oct. 13 and has allowed four goals in 360 minutes, with six saves on 10 shots against him. His record this season is 2-2-0, with one shutout.

"It's obviously good that Marcus has gotten a couple of games in," Schmid said. "Everybody loves to play games, whether you're the backup or starting goalkeeper."

Hahnemann, 41, is 6-3, 220 pounds. He's appeared in more than 300 games for clubs in England and has nine caps with the U.S. national team, serving as a member of the 2006 and 2010 World Cup squads. From 1994-96, he played for Seattle's A-League team and won a title with those Sounders in 1996.

"We feel very confident in Marcus," Schmid said. "He's an experienced, quality goalkeeper who has been in big games and promotion/relegation games in England."

Hahnemann thus is no stranger to the heated Portland-Seattle rivalry and typical physicality of the games between the teams.

Schmid said it's more than the rivalry aspect that makes Timbers-Sounders matches as physical as they tend to be.

"A lot of referees in the MLS are letting the play go, so there's more physical nature in the game than there has been the past couple years," he said.

Also, he said, "there are some players on the two teams who are physical, and that doesn't always mean the big guys" -- naming Portland's Diego Chara and Will Johnson and his own Osvaldo Alonso as examples.

"Boys will be boys," Schmid said.

Some of the other players to watch in the series are Seattle's Clint Dempsey and Portland's Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe.

Dempsey has played in only nine games for the Sounders this season, with six starts, but in the past two games he has had one goal and one assist.

"Clint's getting fitter all the time," Schmid said. "You're seeing him getting more touches, getting more involved in our offense and getting into more dangerous positions himself."

Valeri has 10 goals and 13 assists -- tops on the club in both departments -- and Nagbe has nine goals and four assists.

"Valeri's a good player. He's had a very good season," Schmid said. "When he's on the field for them, the ball and their game will flow through him. So you have to be aware of where he is. He and Nagbe are probably two of their more influential foplayers in the attacking end.

"Any time you play a team, there's always certain players you've got to account for and make sure people are prepared and in a good position to mark them and pick them up, He (Valeri) is one of those guys, because he can make plays. A lot of guys put themselves in good positions but don't necessarily make plays, but he does."