I lived in the Pacific Northwest for several years, and I can tell you that it takes a lot to drum up any enthusiasm for a sports rivalry between teams from Washington and Oregon. Such rivalries do exist, but on a more tepid level than you’d see in other areas of the country; Sonics-Trail Blazers animosity was practically non-existent, and now the former team is gone. It’s just too damp and laid-back up there to get anything going in a Dodgers-Giants, Packers-Vikings kind of fashion. But the Seattle Sounders-Portland Timbers rivalry is an exception.
The teams aren’t even in the same league, yet. But the Sounders of the MLS played the USL Timbers in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, and things got rather politically incorrect in the stands at Portland’s PGE Park — as illustrated above with this totally offensive-yet-amusing sign, hoisted by a Timbers fan. If you want to cut a Sounders fan to the quick, mock the suicide of Seattle grunge band icon Kurt Cobain. That was in very poor taste. Well played, Timber Army.
The Sounders responded by scoring on a header by Roger Levesque just one minute into the match. Ironic, since Levesque — according to many Portland fans — once stepped on the head of a Timbers goalkeeper during a match a few years ago, when both teams were in the USL. This made him probably the most hated man on the field on Wednesday. Seattle won, 2-1.
From Greg Roth of SEATTLE SPORTS NEWS:
“If I were to describe my experience in Portland in two words it would be, sensory overload. The sights the sounds were spectacular. 16,000 fans make a lot of noise at PGE Park. Being on the pitch was like being at a rock concert. You had the Timber Army in their end and the ECS in theirs both doing there thing in full effect. Sandwiched between the two you had Portland and some Seattle fans all doing their thing.”
The rivalry has been around since the old NASL days in the mid-1970s, then continued when both teams were in the USL. Seattle moved to the MLS last year. Portland is still playing in USL’s first division, but will become an MLS expansion team in 2011. The Timbers are 7-1-5 this season were coming off a 4-0 victory over Montreal.
And to add to the excitement, Vancouver, Canada is getting its own MLS franchise in 2011.
Oh, and the Timbers will be the only MLS team with a chainsaw-wielding maniac on the sideline. Portland icon Timber Jim cut down a replica of the Space Needle on Wednesday, which I’m sure was worth the price of admission all by itself.