Northwest Rivalry At Its Finest – Portland Timbers / Seattle Sounders

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A rivalry is defined as a “competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.”

Does that fit the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers Major League Soccer rivalry? 

After attending Sunday’s clash at Century Link Field in Seattle and listening to some of the 50,000 plus fans leaving the game, I would say it definitely does. 

I heard a lot of, “God, I hate Portland!”

This rivalry goes back to the 1970s and was recently voted the No. 1 rivalry in MLS. So, I think it is safe to say Sounders’ fans have no love lost for the Timbers and this game only reinforced those feelings.

Portland prevailed on this night 2-1 and snapped Seattle’s 13-game home unbeaten streak. They got the best of the Sounders for the second time in a month, beating Seattle by the same score on June 12 and knocking them out of the U.S. Open Cup. It’s also the second straight year Portland won the only regular-season matchup in Seattle.

 Ugh.

This game was filled with emotion, hard fouls and tons of trash talking. It even erupted after the final whistle with pushing, shoving, name calling and Seattle defender Roman Torres waiting outside the Portland locker room looking for more. 

Intense is an understatement.

This game brought out the best (or is it the worst?) part of rivalries. Portland had the lead and did everything in their power to protect it. The diving, time wasting, and fake injuries are unfortunately part of the game. But look at the final score. It worked.

However, when you are on the other side of it and your team is desperate to get the tying goal or the game winner, it is downright excruciating to watch. 

The two teams went back and forth on Sunday in a sloppy match that featured 26 fouls and four yellow card cautions. It is like this every time these two teams meet. And it has been going on since 1975.

Who was the better team on Sunday? Looking at the statistics it was the Sounders. They had a big advantage in possession (59 to 41 percent), forced 7 saves and whipped in an astonishing 35 crosses. They had 14 shots INSIDE the penalty area. You would think the score was 5-0. 

Nope.

A newcomer to the rivalry, Portland forward Brian Fernandez, who in my opinion deserved a red card for his brutal tackle on Seattle defender Kim Kee-hee, stayed in the game and spoiled the fun for the 50,072 fans in attendance. He scored both goals and now has eight goals in nine matches since signing as a designated player May 6. The Argentinian has been nothing but a thorn in the side of the Sounders in his short time with the team.

“To come to a stadium, especially in a big rivalry derby like this, and be able to score and be able to quiet people and not have people talk to you during the match it’s beautiful,” Fernandez said through an interpreter. “It’s part of the game. I don’t mean to be condescending. I don’t mean to be arrogant about it. It’s just one of those beautiful things about football.”

The Timbers’ victory prevented the Sounders from retaining the Cascadia Cup, which is the regional competition between the three Northwest MLS franchises (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver). The teams’ August 23 matchup could determine who takes home that trophy. 

The Sounders, with 35 points, remain in third place in the Western Conference, 11 points behind league-leader Los Angeles FC. Portland, unbeaten in their last five MLS games, has 28 points and continues to climb in the standings. They have just two matches on the road for the rest of the season. 

Sunday’s match was a slugfest and I expect nothing less in next month’s clash. Where will the two teams be at that point in the season? Who knows, but if Sunday’s game is any indication, they will continue to fight it out. It should be fun to watch. 

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About Author

John D. Hunter is Montana native but grew up in the Tacoma/Seattle area and proudly attended Washington State University. He is a former morning show producer on KJR SportsRadio in Seattle. For 7 years he produced ‘Knight in the Morning’ with Michael Knight and New York Vinnie. From there he moved to ESPN.com where he spent another 7 years as an Interactive Editor and Soccer reporter/writer. He has covered 3 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, 1998 World Cup in France and many more sporting events.

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