Photo credit: APWelcome to MLS, Portland. And welcome back, Seattle. Tonight we saw a new incarnation of the Northwest Derby, the Cascadia Derby, the rivalry game that defines a sport. Yankees - Red Sox, Packers - Bears, Ohio State - Michigan, North Carolina - Duke, FC Barcelona - Real Madrid, Inter Milan - AC Milan, Emelec - Barcelona SC, America - Chivas. These are the games we wait to see every season, and every time we see it something special happens.
For MLS it's been more difficult to establish: DC vs New York? Houston vs Dallas? Real Salt Lake vs Colorado? The Superclasico Galaxy vs Chivas USA? Great approximations, even LA - New York is a good match between marquee players. But something else was missing, a little history, a more personal touch, some sibling rivalry.
And this is what the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers bring to MLS. An established derby dating back to the 1970s and the old NASL (North American Soccer League). It reestablished itself in the WSL and the USL divisions. The teams nourished the competitiveness between fans in both cities and players alike. Case in point: Roger Levesque, detested by the Timbers fans for consistently scoring on their team.
Tonight we saw a new brand of soccer in MLS. A different passion. Not just to win, but to beat the other side at every level of the game. It wasn't about points or even goals. It was about showing your passion for the jersey, the city, and picking your side.
On the pitch we saw Seattle at its best when Fernandez scored the first tally of the night. The Sounders pressed on the Timbers defense constantly at the start of the second half after an underwhelming first 45. You could feel the loss of Zakuani in their movement and the lack of a true creative force in their midfield. Portland started slow, allowed for Seattle's attack and answered with quick counters thanks to Nagbe, Cooper, Perlaza, Chara and Jewsbury. True to fashion, Jewsbury delivered a perfect free kick pass to "Futty" Danso and he headed the ball backwards above a stretching Keller.
One - one. All tied up in Seattle and now comes the cauldron at Jeld-Wen Field. Can the Sounders break down the boisterous crowd in Portland? Seattle fans are touch to match, especially their numbers. But Portland doesn't need a large stadium to show their dominance. All they need is their fans and the extra edge that comes along with any and every Clasico, derby, rivalry game.