With the Sounders nearing kickoff today, let’s take a look at the roots of the most fierce rivalry in North American soccer.
The Sounders are soon to host the Portland Timbers in another chapter in the fiercest rivalry in MLS, maybe the fiercest soccer rivalry in North American soccer–with the possible exception of the US National Team’s rivalry with the Mexican National team.
This is a heated soccer rivalry because it reignites a 150-year-old competition between two old lumber and shipping towns. After the robbery of the Seattle Sonics back in 2008 and the rise of the Sounders to MLS play in 2009, Major League Soccer is the only high-level professional league in which these two old Northwest rivals could face each other in any sport.
I remember hating the Portland Trailblazers when the Sonics played them. As a Seattle native, Portland felt like a frail imitation of my city. I suppose I was feeling the hatred that Portland and Seattle natives felt towards each other since the 1840s, when Portland was a rising shipping hub in the Pacific Northwest, with trade routes all the way to Asia.
It was then the rivalry started. Portland was booming, and it had no problem proclaiming itself the gateway to the Pacific while Seattle was still stuck in the mud.
The Alaskan gold rush of 1897 started Seattle’s rise, and over the years, with more industrial interests and railroads coming Seattle’s way, my city overtook Portland in population in the 1940s, with the run-up to World War II and the arrival of Boeing spurring big-time job growth and the strong Seattle unions pushing back against corporate power, even then.
Today, the two cities haven’t let go of that bad blood, and soccer is the only major professional sport left to settle the scores that all Portland and Seattle natives don’t truly understand. That’s what makes a rivalry great, isn’t it?
Sounders Need a Win
Okay, enough Northwest history (click the link above to read more). The Sounders managed a 1-0 shutout of Real Salt Lake last weekend, ending a stretch of embarrassing beatdowns by Sporting KC and the Chicago Fire. They had trouble with Salt Lake, with a Clint Dempsey penalty kick saved by Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando. Only Harry Shipp’s late, deflected goal got the Sounders three points at home.
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Seattle will be without forward Will Bruin (elbow dislocation–ow) and Henry Wingo, and could be missing Roman Torres and Osvaldo Alonso as well.
The Timbers are coming off a 4-1 drubbing in Montreal, in which key midfielder Diego Chara was sent off with a red card.
Portland started the season hot, but injuries have taken their toll. Star forward Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri have missed time, and defender Liam Ridgewell has been hurt as well.
Valeri, Nagbe, and Ridgewell appear to be healthy for today’s match, but Chara will be forced to serve a suspension.
Kick off is at 12 p.m. Pacific. If you’re reading this from home, run down to Occidental Square (if you can) to catch a free concert by Robert DeLong. I just got a snap from someone in attendance, it looks like fun! The game will be broadcast nationally on FOX after the Arsenal-Chelsea match.