SBD/May 13, 2011/Franchises

Timbers-Sounders Rivalry Officially Hits MLS As Cascadia Cup Gets Underway

MLS to experience its first taste of Timbers-Sounders rivalry with Saturday's game
Saturday night's MLS Timbers-Sounders game is the first match in the Cascadia Cup series involving the Sounders and expansion Timbers and Whitecaps, and that is "apropos, because the competition is particularly intense between fans in Portland and Seattle," according to Anne Peterson of the AP. The rivalry between the Sounders and Timbers "dates back to 1975, when both teams were part of the North American Soccer League," and the original Cascadia Cup was "introduced in 2004 when all three teams were part of the United Soccer Leagues First Division." Fans "pooled their money to buy the 2-foot tall trophy, which goes to the team that finishes with the best record in head-to-head matches between the trio, based on a points system." MLS Commissioner Don Garber: "We think the rivalry of our Pacific Northwest clubs will change the landscape of soccer in the United States and Canada and serve as an important driver in growing the popularity of our league." Peterson noted Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps officials "agreed to set aside 500 seats for visiting fans for the games this season," and "among the stipulations is those fans will be seated in one secured area of the stadium in an attempt to keep any fan incidents from popping up." However, "one thing that really doesn't seem to be of major concern is the hooliganism that sometimes taints European soccer matches." The "overwhelming sense is that the rival groups need to represent the teams in a positive light now that they're both big time." The three fan groups "even met in March for the so-called Cascadia Summit to discuss their roles" (AP, 5/11).

RIVALRY REBORN: In Seattle, Steve Kelley writes the first Timbers-Sounders game marks the "rebirth of a rivalry." Kelley: "This is a game that you circle on your calendar, like a holiday. The first game in what certainly will be a long, rich rivalry. ... Sounders vs. Timbers will be real and raunchy and the passion in the stadium will be every bit as inflamed as it is" when Spanish clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona play. Sounders TV analyst Alan Hinton said, "There's a real buzz about the place, isn't there? Playing regular games is exciting, but this is absolutely magnificent." Former Sounders and Timbers coach Bobby Howe: "This is absolutely great for both the cities and for the fans in both cities. And I think it's important for the MLS right now to create these local derbies" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/13). SI.com's Grant Wahl wrote Saturday's game "may well be the high point in the revolution that has turned this area into a soccer-mad region." The Sounders are averaging more than 36,000 fans a game "to lead the league, while Portland is the darling expansion team whose rabid supporters have helped the Timbers go 4-0 at home in MLS" (SI.com, 5/12). Timbers coach John Spencer wryly said of Saturday's game, "I'm pretty sure it's going to be one of the best atmospheres -- probably the second-best atmosphere -- in the country, second to" the Timbers' Jeld-Wen Field. Spencer: "First and foremost, Seattle is our fiercest rival. We know that, but you still can't hide away from the fact that they've done a tremendous job up there from top to bottom. You've got to give credit where credit is due" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/13).

TAKING A LOOK IN THE MIRROR: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Hannah Karp writes Sounders and Timbers fans are "kicking around a new dilemma: How to work up a healthy hatred for fans who, in so many ways, look and think exactly alike." Sounders fans "can no longer claim to be the league's most rugged supporters, as 18,627 Portlanders turned out in a torrential, freezing rainstorm last month for the Timbers' opening home game" against the Fire. The Sounders "boast a 'democracy' that gives fan voting rights on decisions," while the Timbers consult "regularly with its supporters group, the Timbers Army, and trumpets the team's commitment to community service." Karp also notes while the Sounders' "scarf-wielding supporters may look edgy compared to the baseball fans across the street at Safeco Field, Portland fans boast at least as many piercings, tattoos and mohawks." The Timbers-Sounders "animus isn't new: these fans have been at odds since the 1970s." But many current fans are "newcomers who only got hooked when their cities' MLS teams were born" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/13).
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