Coaches carry mutual respect into Timbers-Sounders rivalry

Caleb Porter has a score to settle with Sigi Schmid, one that dates to 1997.

Schmid was the coach at UCLA, and his Bruins ended Porter’s college career by beating the Indiana Hoosiers in the national semifinals.

OK, so Porter didn’t sound at all bitter when recalling Thursday how long he has known the coach of the Seattle Sounders. Porter, the Portland Timbers coach, shared that anecdote while explaining his strong appreciation for the Seattle coach.

“I always had respect for what he was doing at UCLA, and when he made the jump to the pros, I followed him,” Porter said of Schmid. “I always thought to myself, ‘Here’s a guy who was a college coach that’s been successful,’ so I pulled for him.”

But it is Rivalry Week in Major League Soccer. And there is no more heated rivalry in the league than Timbers-Sounders. So — never mind that Schmid was one of the people from whom Porter sought counsel when considering the Timbers job — fans expect fire and vitirol.

This is as edgy as it got on Thursday, when Porter and Schmid each spoke about today’s match at CenturyLink Field:

“It’s one of those things where when the whistle blows, that respect (for Schmid) and those things go out the door,” Porter said.

In making the jump from Akron University, where Porter’s Zips had a record of 123-18-17 and a national title in his seven seasons, Porter is following a path Schmid took in 1999. Schmid spent 19 years at UCLA and won three national titles before leaving to coach the L.A. Galaxy.

“One of the most difficult things — and it sounds a little bit silly — is all of a sudden in the pros you might lose as many games in a month as you do in a whole (college) season,” Schmid said.

“When you’re a college coach, you take each loss very, very hard and you internalize it. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to adjust to that in the pros because your players start looking at you with a crazy look when you go ballistic after a couple losses.”

Porter, whose Timbers opened with a 3-3 draw against New York and a 2-1 loss to Montreal, said that dynamic is an adjustment.

“I would have to agree now that I’ve faced my first loss,” Porter said. “To be honest with you, I’ve moved on from it quickly. And in some ways, I’ve handled it more positively than I would’ve handled it in college, because I do know it’s a long season.”

Yes, Porter said, his Timbers players have seen his fire and passion. But not to the degree his Akron players — including Sounders Steve Zakuani and DeAndre Yedlin — will remember.

“I’m not going to change who I am, but I think with the pros you have to be a bit more calculated when you show that passion, that intensity, that competitiveness,” Porter said.

Not changing who you are — especially core beliefs — is advice Schmid said he has shared with many an aspiring coach.

“When you watch Portland play (you can tell) Caleb’s trying to do it his way,” Schmid said. “Hopefully he’ll have success — except when they play us.”

Two years ago, long before the opportunity to coach the Timbers presented itself, Porter watched Timbers-Sounders clashes from the stands in both Seattle and Portland.

“It would certainly be meaningful for me to get my first win versus Seattle,” he said.