Out of the Fire and into Cascadia. Last week, Kasey Keller, Seattle’s Goal Keeper extraordinaire pulled out another brilliant performance from his satchel of well aged magic. His effort was key in bringing Sounders FC a well-earned point for their nil-nil draw in Chicago. This week Seattle hosts its Canadian Cascadia rival, Vancouver Whitecaps.
Saturday at Qwest Field is another historic milestone for the Sounders and US Soccer. A rivalry since 1974, the Cascadia Clash with Vancouver and Seattle has been promoted to its most prominent level yet. With Vancouver Whitecaps FC joining Major League Soccer this year, along with Portland, the complete Cascadia Rivalry is now more than ever an international experience. If you’re hooked on tweets, this week is #Vancouverweek on Twitter. And with the rapture behind us, one would think little could capture our social network attention more than babies and cats on You Tube. The complete release of Cascadia unleashed on North America is officially a strong competitor.
If Portland is our backyard, mudslinging half-brother, Vancouver is our gentlemanly, and worldly cousin. At first glance, Sounders and Whitecaps cause a gentler Cascadia rumble than the more eruptive Sounders and Timbers edition. With Vancouver’s sporting brethren, the National Hockey League, Vancouver Canucks vying for the Stanley Cup. Vancouver fans are well versed in bone crushingly intense team sport. Seeing usually gentlemanly and courteous athletes be complete sportsmen one minute, then drop gloves, fight, and bite fingers the next, is more common in Vancouver than Seattle. In Vancouver, they know their sport.
If you ever want an amazing athlete, coach, and entertaining sports personality to emulate, or influence future youth athletes, then Alan Hinton is my personal recommendation. His Cascadia legacy in the Vancouver-Seattle rivalry extends both sides of the border. He is one man standing above all others in making the Whitecaps and Sounders rivalry what it is today. He knows the rivalry inside out, having been on both sides. A natural-born storyteller, he retells many of the rivalries great stories and has played many of its most significant roles. Including playing for Vancouver, coaching for both, and now as a TV and Radio Analyst with Sounders FC.
Both teams formed in 1974, joining the NASL (North American Soccer League). Alan Hinton joined Vancouver in 1978. Originally from England, he played for arguably one of the greatest English Premier League coaches, Brian Clough at Derby County. His 30 assists for the Whitecaps in 1978 are still a high level achievement even by current soccer standards. In 1980 he joined the Seattle Sounders earning 25-wins 7-losses. If you want insight, intellect, and great humor, then you want to know Alan Hinton. ”When the season schedule is released the first thing you do is look for when you play the Whitecaps”. ”When I was at the Whitecaps we almost always beat the Sounders. When I was at the Sounders we always beat the Whitecaps”.
Sports are events bringing large numbers of diverse groups of people together. People hungry to find some tiny bit of soulful commonality. Something that truly binds us all together. Soccer is our worlds best team sport example. Alan Hinton is the wise and colorful voice who has made this regions best sports rivalry one of its best long-standing sporting events. He has helped transform this rivalry into a can’t miss event.
In the three team Cascadia rivalry, Vancouver has the only league title. In 1979 they won Soccer Bowl ’79 and were NASL Champions. The Timbers and Sounders both reached NASL finals but neither won.
Finding success in Major League Soccer will be a bigger challenge for Vancouver than in the NASL. Parity in the league makes matches tightly contested, so no one team has dominated the sport since Houston winning repeat MLS Championships in ’06 & ’07. Sounders FC set a high bar winning back-to-back US Open Cup titles in its first two seasons. Vancouver would like to feed off that energy. Some first season issues have posed challenges in their transition to MLS. Coaching changes and ticketing issues with supporters have been two obstacles.
Stadium seating location and pricing for their Southsiders Supporters group caused an initial stir. Much of which Vancouver’s front office has resolved. But it has left lingering communication concerns between the teams Front Office and its Supporters. More recently their coaching change has been the bigger issue.
As bright and entertaining as the Whitecaps have been on the pitch, they have struggled in getting results that satisfy their ownership. Teitur Thordarson was the coach that helped build the Whitecaps into a successful USL team on its way to Major League Soccer. Tom Soehn, former DC United coach was brought in as their Director of Soccer Operations. In Vancouver’s first three MLS months, Thordarson delivered a 1-win, 5-loss, 6-draw record. A thrilling 4-2 inaugural victory over Toronto FC didn’t yield more wins. Continual close matches were ultimately not the result their Front Office wanted. Tom Soehn is now the interim coach.
With high expectations to turn things around, and little room to fall further, the Whitecaps come to Qwest Field hungry to prove they are the talented high-flying team everyone witnessed in its inaugural match. The first edition of the MLS Cascadia Rivalry between the two historic clubs in front of a sold out stadium, and national audience is the best chance they will have. The Sounders are in equal need of joy for recent efforts and fan support. So the match is sure to be the most hotly contested weekend match.
Off the pitch, Vancouver Week has been more nostalgic than the backyard mudslinging building up to the Portland match. Come game time, that politeness will disintegrate. Vancouver’s Designated Player, Eric Hassli has accumulated 3 red cards. The Sounders wont try to antagonize him into a 4th, but they wont stop him from losing his cool either. That threat of his boiling intensity will keep fans on their seats wondering if Vancouver shows its dangerous potential. An upset in front of 36,000 at Qwest field would put their season right in one match. Sounders FC is fully aware, but can not afford to sit back and defend from that happening. Sounders FC needs all 3 points for a win. A single point for a draw is no help. They will play for the win, which will defensively give the Whitecaps opportunities to counter attack. Tonight could be a tightly contested 1-0 victory for one lucky team or it could turn into an eruption of Cascadia goals.
I’ll spill my bias: 3-2 Sounders FC.
Sounders FC, weekly feature, “Round Table”, hosted by Tony Ventrella, with guests Matt Gasch, Alan Hinton, and Emerald City Supporters President, Greg Mockos.
© 2011 by Ryan Sales – http://www.salesonsounders.com