Like Sunshine and Shadow: Seattle and Portland

The Seattle Sounders are a few days and ninety minutes away from hoisting their first MLS hardware in club history. As fans who’ve suffered through 2011’s heartbreaking playoff crash and last year’s sudden sputter, Saturday’s match with the Los Angeles Galaxy is potential vindication. Club management is already calling the game the biggest in franchise history, and the MLS media (all four of them) are in a lather hypeing this regular season finale. However, I want to avert focus from the upcoming game and all associated glory to focus on the misery that must be being a Portland Timbers fan right now.

You’re a Portland Timbers fan. Coming into 2013 you were full of hope and joy because the first year of the Caleb Porter regime was a smashing success: you won the Western Conference, thus earning a berth in CONCACAF Champions League, and won a playoff series against your hated rival the Flounders. But this season hasn’t gone according to plan. Your team has sputtered all year and now sits outside the playoffs with one game left. You were thoroughly beaten three times by the Sounders, one loss knocking you out of the US Open Cup competition. Worse? That rival, those stupid Flounders, is the class of the league, having put together a stellar season where they already netted one trophy and are in line for a second and possibly the Treble.

The cherry on top of the thought of the Treble is the sweet, sweet schadenfreude at the expanse of Timbers fans. Maybe I’m evil (and it’s been said), but I love when calamity befalls those hipsters down south. Even on the eve of our apotheosis as Great Team, I’ll still take the time to revel in my hate of the Portland Timbers. It’s like sunshine and shadow. I want the Sounders to win it all. And that is further complemented by Portland utterly failing. I will be ecstatic if Portland gets nothing out of this season.

I do not want the Timbers to make the playoffs. If Portland fails to climb above the red line, we’ll get to pat ourselves on the back for pooping the bed against Vancouver. That loss, though seemingly disastrous at the time, may be a Sounders masterstroke.

Seattle losing ensured Vancouver stayed ahead of Portland. The Caps still only hold a point lead in the playoffs race, they’d be two down if we didn’t roll over. Didn’t that game feel weird and somehow out of our hands? If we had to lose to Vancouver (with the security of knowing L.A. would also lose) to keep Portland joyless this year, I can rationalize that.

At the time I was seriously distraught by our loss to the Caps. I felt it was just the latest example of Seattle crumbling under pressure, like in 2011, 2012 and 2013. But what if the Big Sounder in the sky took a longer-term look at things? The Big Sounder may have had us lose, coupled with L.A.’s loss to FCD, to set the stage for both: The Sounders winning the Supporters’ Shield AND the Timbers missing the playoffs. Delicious.

Granted, it does hurt that the loss was in the Cascadia Cup final. I’m bummed we didn’t win that Cup but, honestly, that derby is a little diluted by Vancouver. I really have no animosity towards the Caps, does anyone? All I really care about, rivalry-wise, is seeing Portland fans cry.

There are more tears in Stumptown after the Timbers’ Tuesday night loss to CD Olimpia in CCL play. After trouncing their opponents for the majority of Group Play, Portland lost 3-1 in Honduras to Olimpia. The loss knocked the Timbers out of the CCL. It was brilliant. The Timbers lost in spectacular fashion, hemorrhaging two goals in the first four minutes. Not advancing to the knockout round of the CCL is just another failure in a season full of them. Portland won’t receive more notoriety or legitimacy as a club, and, more tangibly, they won’t get any more allocation money.

CCL success is key to a club’s further development in MLS. It’s all about the Benjamins. A CCL berth grants you allocation money, advancing to the next round gets you even more money. Teams need allocation money to work around the byzantine salary cap restrictions of the league. Seattle, L.A. SKC and RSL have become consistent winners mostly due to their accumulation of allocation money (hell even D.C. United used their fluke run last year to jumpstart this year’s progress). Success literally breeds success.

Portland forfeited more allocation money by falling apart in Honduras. They lucked their way into the CCL (when MLS changed how berths were granted) and were starting the tough climb into the upper tier of MLS clubs, only to be smacked back down. It may be a helluva while before Portland again gets in Champions League. Too bad.

All is right in the world. Seattle is winning and Portland is losing. Enjoy it.

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