Portland Timbers

Sounders vs. Timbers: Not All Chances Are Created Equal

Despite recent reputations, neither the Seattle Sounders nor the Portland Timbers played the “beautiful game” Sunday night.

Fans of both teams have come to expect attacking soccer from the two Cascadian sides. Last season Seattle was second in goals scored with 65 (1.91 per game) and Portland was right behind at third with 61 (1.79 pg). This season the Sounders are lagging a little, but still in second with 10 goals scored in 7 games (1.42 pg). Whereas Portland is sputtering, scoring only .875 pg with 7 in 8. So where was the offensive last night?

Either team could make the argument that they attacked enough to win. 90+ minutes of 22 men making a plethora of decisions every moment regarding a single ball yields a data-rich environment. Anyone wearing Rave Green can find the data points necessary to make their arguments, as can someone in (I don’t really know what they call it) Timber? green.

The overwhelming narrative from the Seattle camp is that the Sounders earned a gritty win by not falling into Portland’s “sit back and counter” trap. We feel we controlled the game and put in enough quality chances to get the win. South of the border, the narrative is (as always) “we deserved better.” The Timbers feel they shut down our vaunted attack and looked dangerous enough to come away with a draw and, honestly, a win would’ve been a fair result as well.

It is difficult for anyone too close to the event horizon of rivalry to be objective here. But us bloggers get paid the big bucks to try, so let’s look at the chances.

Portland had three quality scoring chances and two shots on target. Both Urruti and Chara took ambitious shots from outside the box that forced Frei to make a save. Adi, in the 81st minute, banged a dangerous header off the woodwork. Any of those shots could’ve easily gone in and changed the game. Portland took 8 other shots (some were even from within the 18 yard box) but every single one of them was either competently blocked or sailed well wide of goal. I am not counting Urruti’s offside as a chance, as it was only a “chance” because he was a mile offside.

So many. So wide.

So many. So wide.

Seattle had four quality chances and 3 shots on target. Other than the Rose shot that eventually spilled to Dempsey and decided the game, Neagle took a mean strike right at the end of the first half that forced a save, and Pappa took a shot that sailed justover the crossbar. Very early in the night, Oba found himself with the ball at his feet a mere yard from goalmouth. He danced with the ball, for what seemed like forever, looking for a chance before sending the ball harmlessly aside. Anytime Oba is in your six-yard box with the ball at his feet, you are lucky if he doesn’t score.

The man has a nose for goal.

The man has a nose for goal.

Of course chances don’t equal shots and shots don’t equal goals. But if you create enough good shots, eventually the ball goes in. This doesn’t always balance out over the course of 90 minutes, sometimes it take games. Last week against NYCFC, Portland only put three balls on target but got the goal. Going one-for-three is a stellar percentage, but coupled with this week, Portland only has that one in six SOG. That is definitely trending towards fair. And not too long ago Seattle was skunked in L.A. despite taking 14 shots with 10 on frame. Those two games have Seattle at one in thirteen SOG. The numbers will always regress to the mean; which is a fancy way of saying, the Sounders are still owed a couple.

 

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: Hate leads to Victory

The Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers meet today in Sodo to renew their rivalry. It’s not just a soccer game, it’s not just a marketing spectacle for the league, it’s an atavistic need to conquer your neighbor. What inspired Genghis Khan, William the Conqueror and Tywin Lannister inspires Sounders-Timbers: crush your enemy before they crush you.

Sorry Yoda, but I gotta disagree.

Bold Prediction: As I said in the podcast, today’s game will be key. Since Porter came to Stumptown and made the Timbers relevant, the series has been on a seesaw. 2013 was all Timbers, 2014 all Sounders. Tonight sets the tenor for the early days of the Porter chapter of the rivalry. The pressure is really on him to beat Seattle and prove 2013 wasn’t a fluke. For Seattle, 2013 was one hiccup in a long and successful campaign of embarrassing Portland. The Sounders just want to keep Portland in their cute but irrelevant corner of the American soccer consciousness.

Tonight is a chance for both teams to significantly shape the narrative. The Sounders win and they’ve ahead a serious distance from Portland (13 pts in 7 GP vs 9 in 8 for PDX). However if the Timbers somehow bumbleclutz their way to a rare W, they’yy be a nose ahead of Seattle (12 in 8 for PDX vs. 10 in 7 for SEA). A draw, Porter’s preferred result, would leave the teams quite close.

As to the actual game? Chad Marshall is a big loss. But Evans and Scott kept a clean sheet against Dallas, and I could see that again tonight. Though the Sounders play tight, someone makes an error. I don’t see Portland shutting down the Deuce and Oba show, as we scored 10 goals against them last season (8 in Portscum!) I said it on the podcast, Seattle wins 2-1. Now I am beginning to think I was being a bit too conservative. As Zach Scott said, “We beat Portland.”

 

 

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.

The Madness of King Caleb Porter

Poor Caleb Porter. The Portland Timbers coach is slowly going mad, one delusional postgame interview at a time. The Seattle Sounders destroyed the Timbers Sunday to the tune of 4-2 despite Portland having everything to play for. With a win, Portland would’ve moved into a playoff position for the first time all year, avenged two straight losses to their hated rivals and earned three precious points in their star-crossed season. But they came out flatter than Kansas (even a pyromaniac Dorothy on the tifo couldn’t help them), and the Sounders were an offensive cyclone.

To any Sounders fan, Porter’s growing loss of perspective has been becoming more clear with each Cascadia clash. After Sunday, a national audience is now privy to the madness of King Caleb. After the rout, Porter said:

“It’s hard to believe that at halftime we were down 2-0 with the way we played,” Porter said. “I thought we came out well. … It seemed like every chance they got today was in the back of the net, and somehow we couldn’t find the frame, so it was a bit of a strange game.”

Hard to believe?! Were we watching the same game? I admit I am no soccer genius, but God gave me eyes in my head and a (semi) rational mind. The Sounders were all up in your base Porter, killing your dudez. Even worse was the report from the ESPN sideline reporter (how crazy was it that sideline reporters were employed during this game?!) at halftime that Porter allegedly said the Timbers had “dominated” the first half. It is one thing, though ambitious and brazen, to try and bend the narrative and claim the game was closer than 2-0 would suggest, but to claim dominance?! Porter has really donned the mad cap this time.

Don’t believe the score line, the game wasn’t as close as it suggests. Seattle was in complete control of the game, allowing Portland to possess to their heart’s content before pouncing on the slightest slip and countering with reckless abandon. The Sounders’ offensive juggernaut had been sputtering in recent matches, but still employs Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Marco Pappa. These three have toyed with better teams than Porter’s Timbers all season. And there’s the rub.

Porter coaches with serious hubris. I understand the notion of sticking to your guns and playing to your strengths (and other synonymous sports clichés meaning “don’t worry about the opponent, but yourself”), but stranding an embattled back four to the countering strength of Dempsey, Martins, Pappa and even Brad Evans? I get you want to possess and attack, but… That’s like sticking your finger in a light socket. Don’t be shocked when you get burnt. Evans was the least frightening of our attacking quartet, at least on paper, but he was continuously igniting the counter. He found joy on the right time and time again as Porter’s boys, especially the insufferable Maxi Urruti, forgot their defensive responsibilities. And sure, those mental errors, and the seeming absence of the usually solid Diego Chara and Will Johnson, aren’t exactly Porter’s fault. But a coach must take responsibility for his team’s performance. Professional sports is a cold, cold meritocracy, and only W’s matter.

Thus even the Stumptown Footy faithful are getting a little irked at Porter’s postgame sugar coating:

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 5.24.11 PM

In any other sport, Porter would be laughed out of the job. He repeatedly, after losses, even ones that aren’t close, not only rationalizes away the poor performance but claims the Timbers should’ve won. It was curious at first, but now it is bordering on mad. If Porter was doing this in Cleveland or Buffalo, or football or baseball, the local and national media would skewer him. This alone, sadly, captures the irrelevance of soccer, and MLS, in the American consciousness (and Portland’s decidedly minor-league standing as a sports city), no pundits are calling him out for his postgame shenanigans.

Oh Caleb Porter, thank you for being so entertaining. You are a fabulous addition to this great rivalry. But please, maybe consider toning down the delusions of grandeur, at least enough to convince Merritt Paulson and Gavin Wilkinson about your sanity and competence. As long as you stay employed, you keep Portland a doormat.

THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS ARE KINGS OF CASCADIA!!

Sorry I am late with my post today. I celebrated yesterday’s win over the Timbers by attending the Reign’s playoff game (another smashing success) with my family. Post soon forthcoming.

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The Seattle Sounders are Kings of Cascadia after dispatching the Portland Timbers 4-2 yesterday in Portland.*

*I only mean “kings of Cascadia” figuratively, as in “Seattle is a better team than that other Cascadian team, Portland.” I do not mean that the Sounders, to a man, have now inserted themselves into some patriarchal, monarchical line or achieved primogeniture for our bioregion. I also don’t even care to reference Vancouver, but Seattle did, in fact, move into first-place of the Cascadia Cup rankings with 8 points (though the ‘Caps have two games in hand).

Remember when Portland was thisclose to achieving unquestioned dominance over us? They ran us roughshod in the playoffs last year, and we’re sitting pretty with a 2-goal advantage at home back in April? Well that 4-4 draw feels like many lifetimes, or alternate realities, ago. I am so glad we live in a timestream where Caleb Porter is delusional not a visionary, Portland’s 2013 season was a fluke and the Sounders are the once and future kings.

The national pundits are claiming that Seattle won a “statement game.” I could care less. We beat Portland and we played our way in doing so. The idea that we’re serving notice to the rest of the West or the league just sells ads. The Sounders are in it to win it: the US Open Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS Cup. We just need to play our game our way and never mind the bullocks.

Sunday was Seattle Sounders soccer. Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey were in lockstep, linking up repeatedly to the tune of four goals. Brad Evans played like a man possessed. He did a perfect DeAndre Yedlin impersonation when he burned passed overhyped Portland CB Liam Ridgewell to feed Martins for Seattle’s first goal. Evans got the assist but he was just the last connection in a 14-pass sequence  that involved the whole team. We attacked as a team and defended as a team. Zach Scott played his heart out, Chad Marshall played through a petty elbow from Norberot Papparatto and we all endured the bratty antics of Maxi Urruti.

Take a week off boys, you earned it. Life is good in the Emerald City.

Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers Gameday

Voodoo Doughnuts taste like crap. The overly sugary, kooky confections are a microcosm of Portland: all hype, no quality. Top Pot Doughnuts, however, are just well made donuts. Nothing fancy, flashy or hipster, just artisanal confections done the way doughnuts should be. Seattle may not posture like Portland, but it actually delivers.

I’ve been a Philadelphia Eagles fan since before I could wipe my own butt. In sports, hate and rivalry come easy to me. I hate the Dallas Cowboys. I really the New York Giants. But there is no team I loathe more than the Portland f*cking Timbers. From their pretentious “authenticity”, to their hipster fans, douchebag owner and wannbe city, the Timbers are easily the most insufferable team in MLS. Seattle, on the other hand, has class, boatloads of it. The Sounders can ice this year’s series and win one for all things good in the world.

I know you’re tired, I know you’re injured, but c’mon Seattle, fight and win.

Bold Prediction: Ugh. I wish I could be more positive, but I see Portland scoring first and us equalizing in a seesaw match. The Sounders-Timbers rivalry ends with a perfect bookend: another epic draw in draw city: 2-2.

The Final Countdown: Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers Round 4

The Seattle Sounders face their old and hated foes the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

It’s Portland. The last Portland match of the year. I’ll be honest, I could give a rip about the Cascadia Cup right now. Vancouver’s pretty much got that wrapped up and do you actually hold much ire in your heart for our neighbors to the north? Nope, me neither. But Portland? I hate Portland. We drew one, we won one, let’s end this thing and end them.

The Timbers have had a nice little run, getting four results out of their last five games to claw out of the cellar and into the playoff picture. Currently Portland sits just out of contention with 31 points behind Vancouver (33 pts) and L.A. (37). So a win by the boys in the wrong color green puts Portland back in the dance. For now. The ‘Caps and Gals both have games in hand on PDX, but don’t tell that to any Timbers fans. Folks in Stumptown are taking Sunday’s game very, very seriously. I guess you have to when you’re barely clinging to the playoffs and your coach has been revealed to be less than a visionary.

Time and space are conspiring against the Cascadia Rivalry. Seattle and Portland will both be less than 100% as both played midweek games. The Sounders played more recently, Wednesday’s draw against San Jose, but didn’t travel. The Timbers, however, flew all the way to the Caribbean to beat Alpha United, a Guyanese team, in their first ever CONCACAF Champions league match 4-1 on Tuesday. Portland travelled many of their bets players, so there will be tired legs on both teams. Regardless of whether the twenty-two men who take the pitch in Portland are all marquee names or not, the game should live up to the billing.

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On Twitter following Wednesday’s draw, I got into a small conversation regarding the Sounders’ form and forwarded the idea that this team still needs to jell. Let me explain.

The Sounders are more than just their best players. Yes we are two-thirds through the season, so the idea that we are still jelling may seem silly. But you rarely, if ever, get to start your ideal eleven for a sustained playoff run (Shalrie Joseph anyone?). You field who’s available at kickoff and hope it works. Though sometimes it doesn’t, like on Wednesday when too often players were occupying the same space on the field. When Kenny Cooper is playing as a midfielder and Andy Rose is making his third start of the season, you can expect some miscommunication. Sigi even addressed this at the half when he flipped Marco Pappa to the right so his pinching in could be overlapped by DeAndre Yedlin and still provide width in the attack. There is still time to be in experiment mode.

I am grateful the Sounders are working the kinks out with two months to play and sitting in first place. If we were still figuring out lineup combinations with a week to play and on the other side of the playoffs (hello Portland), I’d be pissing myself. But that isn’t the case. What if Rose needs to go in the playoffs because Pineda got hot-headed and saw red? What if Cooper needs to start in the middle or Barrett up top? Do I want to see Oba and Dempsey up top for the full ninety being fed by Pineda and Pappa and Evans from the midfield? Hell yeah! But that may not be a guarantee come autumn. This team has depth but it needs to fine-tune all its different roster permutations.

Seattle has never played a “system” like Porter in Portland or RSL. Sigi lets his players dictate form. So when the personnel changes, so does the attack. With all the games, injuries and suspensions lately, we are just seeing the many faces of the Sounders.

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If you asked the average Sounders fan how the season was going right now, they’d respond with doom and gloom. But somehow we’re still in first place. Somehow we still have the best points-per-game. Somehow we’re still one game from making US Open Cup history. And we’re 48 hours from owning the Seattle-Portland rivalry in 2014. Last year sucked, Portland was our daddy. Let’s make that an aberration, a blip in history. Keep it simple Seattle, beat Portland.

Caleb Porter Wants to Coach the Seattle Sounders

One of my favorite whipping boys, Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter, may not be as dumb as he looks (though I find that hard to believe).

The MLS All-Stars will play a half-stocked Bayern Munich side on August 6th as the crown jewel of MLS’s midseason festivities. The All-Star game will be held in Seattle’s armpit, aka Portland, and thus the feisty little Timbers and their plucky gutter-punky Army will be heavily featured (MLS’s marketing of green smoke and waving flags from Hospitals-Not-Windows-Anymore Park is getting really old). Portland’s beleaguered coach Porter got the privilege, as coach of the host city’s team, to round out the All-Star roster after the fans’ and MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s selections.

MLS’s All-Star roster is frankenstitched together. A fan vote determines the starting 11, then the All-Star coach choses 10 reserve players while the commish rounds out the 23-man roster with two picks of his own. These two picks are often political or business-related. Last season, Garber knew the league had a hot commodity in DeAndre Yedlin and sent him to the All-Star game as a deserving acknowledgement of the rookie’s fine season, but also to further groom a budding superstar.

The Sounders’ roster is stacked with stars. Seattle is dominant this season and, across all sports, better teams always send more players to all-star games. So it is no surprise that three Sounders, Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin and Obafemi Martins, were selected by the fans to be in the starting eleven while no Timbers were. The real humor of the roster is that Porter then chose two more Sounders, Chad Marshall and Ozzie Alonso, as All-Stars and only one of his players, Will Johnson. Porter could have chosen as many of his players as he liked. He clearly doesn’t like his team very much. Other than his spirit animal, Johnson, Porter avoided men wearing the wrong color green.

As a Sounders fan this is simply delicious. It’s pretty damn telling that Porter chose Ozzie Alonso over Diego Chara. Clearly Porter has a soft spot in his heart for ball hawking defensive midfielders. He clearly wanted a pitbull in the midfield and acknowledged, through his selection, that Ozzie is better than his own Chara. To me Alonso’s superiority is obvious, but I hear many Portland fans dispute this fact. Clearly their coach agrees with me.

Porter picking Marshall is no real surprise. Of course Porter would salivate at the chance to coach an elite center back. The position is Porter’s kryptonite. Last year Porter soldiered through with the makeshift Great Wall of the Gambia, but he has never had a solid center back that could stay healthy on his squad since he was named head coach. Porter has gone through so many CBs: Horst, Futty, Kah, Silvestre, Jean-Baptiste, Papparato, O’Rourke, McKenzie that he’s starting to look desperate. Portland just used a DP slot on the EPL’s Liam Ridgewell hoping to turn his luck. Porter may want a player of Marshall’s quality on his squad, but how many Sounders will a Portland crowd root for?

The game will be played in Portland in front of mostly Timbers fans. Things would have gotten awkward for the RCTID crowd if Will Johnson, who some are fastly falling out of love with, was the only All-Star representing the home team. Thus Commissioner Garber came to the rescue and named Diego Valieri, who of all Timbers is most deserving, with one of his political picks. Pretty embarrassing that the commish needed to name another Timber to Porter’s roster.

With his selections Porter has clearly acknowledged his team isn’t very good and the Sounders are better. What ever happened to brass balls, huh?

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2014 MLS All-Star Roster:

Goalkeepers (2): Nick Rimando* (Real Salt Lake), Bill Hamid (D.C. United)

Defenders (6): Matt Besler* (Sporting Kansas City), Aurélien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez* (Galaxy), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin* (Seattle Sounders FC)

Midfielders (8): Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders FC), Kyle Beckerman* (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley* (Toronto FC), Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Clint Dempsey* (Seattle Sounders FC), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers), Graham Zusi* (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards (7): Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC), Landon Donovan* (Galaxy), Thierry Henry* (New York Red Bulls), Robbie Keane (Galaxy), Obafemi Martins* (Seattle Sounders FC), Erick Torres (Chivas USA), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)

* = Fan XI

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Thanks for following Raving Readers. I am taking the weekend off but will be back Monday with a Galaxy pregame post. Whatever makes you happy: the Capitol Hill Block Parties, Torchlight Parades, enjoy the weekend. Allegedly the sun is coming back!!

 

Sounders vs. Timbers: Cascadia is American Soccer

IMG_0651The American soccer world turned its eyes from Maracana to Cascadia Sunday. The MLS fixture setters hit a masterstroke scheduling their flagship rivalry on the coattails of the World Cup final. The league and sport are growing exponentially and MLS has finally found an identity. Since its inception in 1996, MLS has struggled to find its bedrock support. The league originally courted the Latin population and soccer moms but recently has been seeing the bearded thirty-something on the side.

MLS makes strange bedfellows. Ever since the emergence of urban stadia and the embrace of supporter culture, the original desired demographic, suburban soccer moms and their broods, has grown more and more marginalized. Maybe this is hard to fathom in Sandy, Utah or Bridgeview, Illinois, but Cascadia is at the vanguard of this transition. All three cities, Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland, have downtown temples of soccer where hordes of tattoo’ed, pint-swilling fans throng to their club. It makes for an almost comical juxtaposition: rowdies stumbling from pubs to join pig-tailed suburban cherubs at the game. Sunday amongst the dives and greasy spoons of Sodo, with all the cameras of ESPN fixated on the returned American heroes Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin, the league finished waffling and finally embraced the hooligan.

Soccer lives in the Northwest. Supporter culture, for lack of a better term, grows strong amongst craft beers, coffee and artisanal cheeses. The organic growth of the Seattle-Portland rivalry is just another example of the region’s fecundity. Seattle-Portland has become the taproot of the league. The supporters truly hate each other’s clubs. It is more than the Cascadia Cup, more than Western Conference supremacy; it is about hurting the other team.

I don’t ever want to just beat the Timbers.

The rivalry was recently at a shaky equilibrium. Portland got Seattle good last year knocking us out of the playoffs. They can savor that for a looong time. But vengeance is a dish best served cold and the Sounders are slowly and methodically avenging that loss.

Things looked grime back on April 5th. Portland was on the verge of their first win of the season, holding a 4-2 advantage over Seattle into the 85th minute. The Timbers were about to settle into their winning ways and do so with another, their third straight, win over Seattle. Then Clint Dempsey happened. Us Sounders fans enjoyed some schadenfreude as we used that dramatic draw to ignite a hellacious run, winning 10 of our next 13 games. We looked down the standings to see our rivals wallowing amongst the cellar dwellers. The Timbers didn’t win for another month and only have four victories on the season. As the Sounders continued cementing their place atop the league table, Portland continued to unravel.

Then Cascadia week happened. We knocked Portland out of the US Open Cup, almost guaranteeing they won’t win any silverware this season. Then we followed that up with Sunday night’s 2-nil drubbing. Now some Oregonians are rumbling about firing Caleb Porter. He isn’t even 12 months removed from being a visionary and a savior. I know I talked up how good it is to have a quality opponent with strong personalities in this rivalry, but hell! If Portland fires Porter specifically for his failures against Seattle… that would almost be too sweet.

I don’t ever want to just beat the Timbers. I want to grind them into the earth like a spent cigarette butt, I want them to miss the playoffs and I want Seattle to deliver the killing blow. I want Portland to finish at the bottom of the table for a generation. I want anyone who wears the wrong color green to rue the day they fell in love with Portland.

Seattle-Portland is passion. You can’t market research that or replicate it (sorry New York-D.C.), and that is why MLS has embraced us. Soccer is played with the heart and Cascadia is American soccer.

Writing History: A New Chapter in the Epic of Cascadia

History is being made in the storied Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers rivalry. Face it America, Sounders-Timbers is THE rivalry in American soccer. The supporters hate each other and both teams have outlandish personality. Seattle bedecks the feud with Captain America Clint Dempsey and wizened coach Sigi Schmid. Portland trots out the insufferable twins: Will Johnson and Caleb Porter.

We are currently in the dog days of the Cascadia war. Wednesday night was round one of the marquee matchup and it felt so good as Seattle punched Portland in the mouth. Sigi said it himself; knocking the Timbers out of the 2014 Open Cup was revenge for them knocking us out of the 2013 MLS Cup playoffs. Eliminating a rival from a cup competition is always sweet, but to me MLS takes precedence. I’d gladly have traded Wednesday’s night dramatic victory for the memory of beating the crowing Timbers in the first year of the Caleb Porter regime.

Porter is such a tool. When he wins he brags like a hopped-up frat boy and when he loses it’s always someone else’s fault. Last night it was the ref’s fault. It really chaffs my nuts that Porter arrived in Portland lauded as a visionary coach and then followed through by delivering the Western Conference crown, a playoff series victory and the sweet fortune of delivering the deathblow to your hated rival.

It is no secret I loath Caleb Porter. Before you go thinking I need anger management or something, consider the health of our rivalry now that we have such powerful personalities on either side. I loved how inept John Spencer was. He was a comical Scot who we could always count on to beat But the rivalry was so lopsided then and Spenny was too much the butt of jokes. He didn’t engender real passion from Soundersland. Porter? He’s a schmuck and so easy to hate. That is good for Cascadia.

It is a privilege to part of this rivalry. And the story needs to be peopled with memorable characters and talented players. Sigi, before the arrival of Clint Dempsey, was the face of the Sounders and now Portland has an equally noteworthy coach. I hate to admit it but when Portland is competitive, the rivalry grows. Seattle’s stars are Dempsey and Obafemi Martins and allegedly the Timbers’ star is Darlington Nagbe.

When Nagbe equalized at the death (scoring his first goal of the season among all competitions, btw), it escalated my blood pressure but cemented the game’s status. Wednesday became a milestone. But… is Nagbe that special? He has one goal in 21 games. And yet he’s supposedly this precocious talent who’s just about to bloom. Wake me up when he does. Maybe I’m gonna jinx it and Nagbe will finally become the player Portland desperately, desperately imagines him to be. But ff we compare Nagbe to a former up-and-coming Cascadian talent, Fredy Montero, the Liberian pales to the Colombian:

In 56 games over his first two seasons, Montero scored 22 goals for the Rave Green.
In 112 games over his entire 3.5 seasons in MLS, Nagbe has 17 goals for the wrong color green.

Fredy was pouring goals in as a young Sounder in 2009 and 2010 before he transitioned from prospect to star. 2010 was Fredy’s age 23 season, as 2014 is for Nagbe. So… when do we stop labeling Nagbe as precocious and rather just a “pretty okay player”?

For one night, at least, Nagbe played big in a big game. That too is good for the rivalry. He Portlanded us. If it was a regular league game, draw city would’ve earned the draw. But thanks Darlington. You allowed us Cascadians to write a new chapter in our fabulous story. You allowed the game to go toextra time. You allowed Diego Chara to act the fool all of us in the Sound know he is and foul Marco Pappa. Then former Timber Kenny Cooper and transcendent new Sounder Pappa got to pile it on and light the biggest bonfire the north has ever seen. That is, at least until Sunday.

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