For derby matches, the most soccer intensive type of regional rivalry, you simply throw records away come match-day. Since the Seattle and Portland inaugural MLS Clash on May 14th, it has been one team on the rise while the other on the down low. Since their first meeting, Sounders are 5W – 1L – 3D, and a US Open Cup win over Kitsap Pumas. A first step in pursuit of a third consecutive US Open Cup title. In the same period, the Timbers have caught a case of inaugural season expansion blues, going 1W- 5L – 1D. When it comes time for tomorrows historic I-5 soccer rivals, no records or extra motivation are needed for the first ever MLS edition of the I-5 derby in Portland.
Good news for Timbers fans can be gleaned from Sounders two previous season headlines. It’s a simple equation. No secret code gimmicks with disappointing messages like “o-v-a-l-t-i-n-e”. Midseason sluggishness, plus league parity equals one game turn around time. One win and the Timbers season course is righted. What happens with one Timbers win at home in their inaugural season against Sounders FC? Well, does someone have a one-match mid-season trophy? Because Portland fans will celebrate like one had been won.
The Sounders are playing their best mid-season form since joining Major League Soccer. Surprising with so many injuries. Especially those to Steve Zakuani and O’Brian White. How they have shaped their surprise form has come from Sigi Schmid‘s use of his clubs depth and width. Their talented deep lineup has proven itself. Virtually every match seeing different lineups has allowed that depth in talent to see quality playing time. The reward has been realized by spreading the wealth of goals. Thirteen different players have contributed goals for Sounders FC. So much for the need for a DP. With Seattle, it has been DP by committee. (DP = Designated Player)
Hooligan is to soccer as “He who shall not be named” is to, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Prior to this season of the rivalry, many people including Sounders and Timbers owners, as well as MLS executives felt this rivalry could boil over into some sort of Lord Voldemort vs Harry Potter warfare. Causing all sorts of mayhem. The May 14th match proved there is warfare but not the type league officials and club owners had counted on.
The weapon? Tifo. The name for colorful flags and banners you see waving at soccer matches around the world. 25,000 square feet of material rained down on Qwest Field and the historic supporter battle lines were drawn. Who can show the greatest most epic display of supporter pride is now the war. Seattle won the first battle. The call to arms sounded loudly as the message “Decades of Dominance” was spilled out in green, blue and white lettered tifo that fell over the Seattle crowd. Now the Timbers will surely be set to respond.
Peace in the stands, peace between fans. Lost in all the thousands of yards of colorful material and flag waving, is the respectful realization that both clubs supporters have nearly eliminated the nasty “hooligan” soccer tag. A successful match tomorrow without supporter issue will likely wipe the term permanently away from this derby.
There is bitterness between the two clubs supporters. But the outlets for release are many. Beer, chanting, singing, dancing, flag-waving, 90 minutes of active standing, scarf raising, and unless it’s 20 degrees or cooler, just plain ample sweat-it-out opportunity. It is healthy release. It is derby time. Viral and not contained. In fact derby-frenzy is equal to free roaming pathogens. Infectious. Very infectious. So infectious, there is no quarantine. The disease is pride. Pride that on any given match, tifo and noise will be palpable enough to drive the home side to find that little extra to notch a special win. Or when silenced, the traveling road warriors will have colorful displays of that epic tale of victory on the road.
Tifo cures Hooligan. Timbers Army and Emerald City Supporters are the flag waving scientists holding up the proof.
The derby is an intense mix of regional Cascadia rivals. It has the potential for hooligan pathogens to be released. More importantly, this is a region of civic pride over soccer pride. Emerald City and Rose City come before Sounders and Timbers. The intensity is turning into unique displays of passion expressed the way people in Cascadia have always wanted the game to be known here. The Beautiful Game Northwest. This derby is well on its way to becoming one of the biggest in the world of club soccer. A sign of what is needed with other MLS club rivals. A positive example for the world of soccer.
Thanks to Antonio, Lisa, & Elizabeth for inspiration and friendship. ”Pathogen A and Pathogen B”.
© Sales on Sounders 2011 by Ryan Sales