Major League Soccer has never seen a rivalry like this.
But Alan Hinton has – back in the days of the North American Soccer League, where the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers met for the first time.
The rivalry has continued to sizzle over the 73 meetings since. And that gives tonight’s matchup something most other MLS rivalries lack: history.
“Chivas-Galaxy is a rivalry; the teams are in close proximity in L.A.,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “But it’s more a rivalry that people tried to create with the Honda Trophy. ... This is a rivalry that you don’t have to make into a rivalry. It already exists. It’s been there. It’s been there for the last 30-plus years. It’s nothing that you have to contrive. It’s nothing that you have to whip into a frenzy. It’s there.”
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The series began on May 2, 1975, when Seattle provided the opposition for Portland’s first game in the North American Soccer League.
Meeting No. 75 takes place at 8 p.m. at sold out Qwest Field and before an ESPN2 viewing audience.
“It’s just like the old days are coming around again, and it’s wonderful,” said Hinton, who coached the Sounders from 1980-82 and then helped revive the brand in 1994. “There’s a buzz in town, there’s buzz in the shops, there’s a buzz in the pubs, restaurants. I’ve never seen so many people talk to me about the Sounders, because this game is bringing everybody into a good, happy mood.”
The NASL Timbers folded in 1982, but the rivalry was revived in the Western Soccer League from 1985-50 and continued in the A-League and United Soccer League. Seattle jumped to MLS in 2009, but the clubs met in 2009 and 2010 U.S. Open Cup matches. And now the rivalry is reborn in MLS through expansion to Portland and Vancouver, B.C.
That means this match also is the first game of the 2011 Cascadia Cup – a round-robin competition between the three Northwest clubs, established in 2001.
“The Cascadia Cup has a lot of history to it,” Schmid said. “That it’s being brought back into the forefront is something that’s great for the fan groups.”
Other MLS rivals also compete for trophies and cups. In addition to the Honda SuperClasico contested between the Galaxy and Chivas, there is the Atlantic Cup between the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United, the Brimstone Cup between Chicago and Dallas, the California Classico between Los Angeles and San Jose, the Pioneer Cup between Dallas and Columbus, the Rocky Mountain Cup between Colorado and Real Salt Lake, the Texas Derby between Dallas and Houston, the Trillium Cup between Columbus and Toronto, and even the Heritage Cup between Seattle and San Jose.
Among the most hotly contested is the Trillium Cup, named after a wildflower that grows in Ohio and Ontario. An estimated 2,300 Toronto FC supporters traveled to Columbus in 2008, and there was even a rare incident of MLS hooliganism around the 2009 match in Columbus.
But Sounders midfielder Brad Evans, who played two seasons in Columbus, said the Trillium Cup lacked a sense of history.
“I think that’s the most important thing for this franchise is you have the history going back to the NASL days and the A-League and whatever it was for a number of years,” Evans said. “(Columbus-Toronto) didn’t have that history, but you did have a sense of pride between each team. ...’’
MLS, the Northwest clubs and their support groups negotiated an agreement where visiting supporters for Cascade Cup matches will be allocated 500 tickets – up from the standard 150 for other MLS matches.
The Sounders chose not to increase capacity at Qwest Field, partly in fear of lessening their home-field advantage and partly because they did not sense overwhelming demand. General manager Adrian Hanauer also said there is some worry about mixing what may be MLS’ two most passionate fan bases.
“They’re great people, and they want the right environment,” Hanauer said. “But it just takes one bad egg to cause a lot of problems, so that’s always been the concern. It’s not the majority; it’s a few people who can throw things sideways ”
History tells Hinton that Timbers and Sounders supporters will be both enthusiastic and well-behaved.
“There won’t be any fan trouble,” he said. “There was never any trouble in the ’70s and ’80s. The fans will come in, they’ll do the best they can, they’ll cheer for their team and that’s the way it should be. And in the end, I truly believe the true-blue fans from Portland and Settle will shake hands with the opposite fans after the game like they used to do.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
This is the 75th meeting in a rivalry that dates to May 2, 1975, and through the North American Soccer League, the Western Soccer League, USL-1 and the U.S. Open Cup. Seattle leads, 39-27-8.
As an MLS team, Seattle is 2-0 against Portland, defeating the USL Timbers in the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Open Cup. This is their first meeting as MLS rivals.
Portland took the nickname “Soccer City USA” in 1975 after playing four consecutive home games before crowds of more than 23,000. Two of those games came against the Sounders.
Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller played at the University of Portland under former Timbers great Clive Charles.
Seattle leads MLS with an average home attendance of 36,289. Portland is fifth with an average of 18,627. However, every home game for each team has been a sellout.
Among the best-known players to wear a Sounders uniform are Jimmy Gabriel, Alan Hinton, Pepe Fernandez, Jeff Stock, Freddie Ljungberg and Keller. Among the Timbers’ immortals are John Bain, Jimmy Conway and Jim Serrill, an actual lumberman who became the team mascot.
This is the first game of the 2010 Cascadia Cup competition, which will be decided by results of a round-robin MLS competition between Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C. Portland currently holds the Cup, winning the two-team first-division competition with Vancouver last season. Sounders gameday
PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-3-1; 13 PTS.) AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (3-3-4; 13 PTS.)
8 p.m., Qwest Field.
TV: ESPN2. RADIO: 97.3 FM (99.3 FM in Spanish).
HEAD TO HEAD: This is their first meeting as MLS sides. However, Seattle leads 39-27-8 through MLS, WSL, USL and U.S. Open Cup. The Sounders will visit Portland on July 10.
TEAM LEADERS: For Portland – G 3, Kenny Cooper; A 4, Kaliff Alhassan; S 18, Cooper; SOG 8, Cooper; GAA 1, Troy Perkins. For Seattle – G 4, Brad Evans; A 3, Mauro Rosales; S 28, Fredy Montero; SOG 14, Montero; GAA 1, Kasey Keller.
NOTES: Seattle is 2-1-1 at home, Portland is 0-3-1 on the road. Over their last five games the Sounders are 2-1-2, the Timbers 4-1. ... The game is sold out, including 500 tickets made available to Portland supporters – 350 more than the usual allotment for visiting fans. ... Seattle midfielder Mauro Rosales (hamstring) is questionable. ... Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Portland forward Jorge Perlaza are cousins. ...According to MLS’ new Castrol player index, the top active Sounder is Hurtado (ranked 21st in the league), while the top Timber is Rodney Wallace (22nd). ... This game is the first in the 2011 Cascadia Cup competition between Seattle, Portland and Vancouver. ... Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez is one caution away from a one-game yellow-card suspension. ... Portland will wear its alternate red kits for the first time. ... The Emerald City Supporters are holding a block party (21 and older) starting at 2 p.m. at the corner of Occidental Avenue and South Washington Street in Pioneer Square. The March to the Match begins at 7 p.m. at Occidental Park. ... The Seattle and Portland reserves will meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.
QUOTABLE: “They’re a pretty direct team: They don’t mess about with it a whole lot. They try to get it in front of your goal as quickly as possible and hope for things to happen; and things have happened for them.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on the Timbers.
NEXT: Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m. May 21, Qwest Field.
Don Ruiz, staff writer