So, in case you're new to MLS or soccer, there's one thing you should know about the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers: They hate each other.
Everytime they play against each other, there's just something extra. The fans are more excited, the players push harder and the match is always just a bit more fun. So in honor of the first Sounders-Timbers match of 2017 on Saturday (2:30 p.m. on FOX), here is a brief history of their rivalry and the top moments that helped define it.
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Roger Levesque and a chopped down 'tree'
While many rivalries in MLS are young and have only blossomed in the confines of MLS, the Timbers-Sounders rivalry goes back years, first to the NASL era of the teams in the late 1970s. But it started to really take on its current form in USL during the 2000s, with one of the most memorable moments coming after the Sounders had just made the jump to MLS.
In 2009, with the Sounders a new MLS side and and the Timbers still in lower-division USL, the two sides met in Portland for a U.S. Open Cup match.
Whatever hopes the Timbers fans had to prove they were better than their major league rivals were quickly dashed – it took the Sounders’ Roger Levesque only 48 seconds to score. That was already enough to silence the Portland crowd, but it was his goal celebration that left the most lasting impression.
Levesque mimed being chopped down like a tree as a teammate pretended to be lumberjack, an attempt to mock Timbers fans. It worked and Timbers fans to this day still hold a special bit of disdain for Levesque in the rivalry.
Dempsey robs Timbers of a win, becomes rivalry villain
In April 2014, the Timbers looked well on their way to victory at home against the Sounders. They were ahead by a score of 4-2 going late into second half and inching closer to a big win against their biggest foe.
But courtesy of a Clint Dempsey hat trick and a late penalty call, that never happened. The Sounders rallied late and managed to force a 4-4 draw. The Sounders and Dempsey came in as the villains and they play their role perfectly, stealing any remnants of joy for the Timbers in the match’s dying moments.
Dempsey, of course, does what he always does: he gave the crowd a smirk and basked in all the hate fans were sending his way. From that point on, he'd be a central figure in the Sounders-Timbers rivalry, taunting Portland fans along the way.
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A bad referee, a ripped notebook and a lengthy ban
The Sounders-Timbers rivalry is heated enough during the MLS season, but during the U.S. Open Cup – when a trophy is directly on the line – tensions tend to flare up even more. That was the case in 2015 during an infamous act of vandalism by Clint Dempsey.
The match was already going badly for the Sounders: The Timbers had a two-man advantage in extra time after the Sounders suffered a red card and an injury without any remaining subs. But then, the referee pulled out another red card against the Sounders on what replays showed was a blatant dive, taking the Sounders down to just eight men.
Dempsey, the Sounders captain, had enough. He snatched the referee’s notebook and ripped it into tiny pieces. The referee was terrible and Dempsey’s callous reaction is sort of hilarious in retrospect, but ultimately he crossed a line and paid the price. Dempsey was slapped with a suspension equal to either six Open Cup matches or two years of Open Cup competition, whichever takes longer.
So, we will not be seeing Deuce in the Open Cup until at least 2018 and you can bet the Sounders hold a grudge about it.
Revving up the crowd, chainsaw style
It seems sort of unsafe and probably strange to first-time visitors to Providence Park: Timber Joey has an actual chainsaw and he cuts actual slices off a log during home matches every time the Timbers score a goal.
It’s a very unique tradition for a soccer team and striker Fanendo Adi seemed to think it would be pretty cool to try himself. After he scored last year, he hopped over the barrier around the field and grabbed the chainsaw next to the log.
Adi did not actually rev up the chainsaw and try to cut a log slice (which really was best for everyone’s safety), but the gesture was enough and Timbers fans went crazy for it.
Escalating tifo wars
The rivalry between the Timbers and the Sounders has produced some creative (and brutal) tifo displays over the years from both sides. These large painted banners are planned by fans weeks and even months in advance of rivalry matches, and the tifo artists want to make the most of their moment to get a good dig in.
The Sounders have often taken a high road, letting the Timbers know that they will crush them (of course) while also celebrating a long history of soccer success in Seattle. One such display from 2011 mentions “48 seconds” in tribute to Levesque’s fastest goal in Sounders history, which happened to be scored against Portland.
On the Timbers side, they’ve had some hard-hitting ones. One example is one from 2014 that depicted Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz setting the Seattle skyline on fire with a canister of gasoline. As you can see above, there's not a much more direct visual in letting a city know how you feel.
But the one that really helped the tifo wars take off came in 2009 when the Timbers were hosting the Sounders for an Open Cup match. To the delight of fans, the Timbers Army came up with an animated tifo of sorts that showed Timber Jim chopping down the Seattle Space Needle.
From that point forward, tifos became an even more prominent part of this rivalry and, for the Timbers Army that created the tifo, it started a trend of creating tifos with multiple dimensions instead of just single-panel banners.
Susan Ragan-USA TODAY SportsSusan C. Ragan
A tifo winner and a tifo loser (for now)
After winning the MLS Cup, the Timbers Army had all the ammo and, with the Timbers set to open the 2016 rivalry series in Portland, the Timbers Army went big with their tifo plans.
They unveiled a huge, intimidating tifo based on "A Nightmare on Elm Street" that was the supporters group’s most menacing display yet. It appeared to be a response to a "Welcome to your nightmare" tifo years ago from Sounders fans, but regardless of the inspiration, the design stood on its own. Better yet, they had Timbers maestro Diego Valeri paint the star in the tifo, the perfect final touch.
So the ante had certainly been upped for the next time the two teams played in Seattle. The Emerald City Supporters group was going to need to bring their best to respond to what was unveiled in Portland. Instead… *insert sad trombone noise here*. The Sounders fans responsed with a "rickroll," the internet prank of sending someone a link that tricks them into watching Rick Astley's hit song "Never Gonna Give You Up."
It’s been almost a year and we still can’t figure out if the Seattle supporters really thought the "rickroll" was funny (about eight years after rickrolling peaked) or if they really believed the explanation they later gave about it being a protest tifo. Either way, it was difficult to read in the stadium so people weren’t sure what was going on and the joke landed with a thud.
Luckily for everyone involved, this rivalry isn’t going anywhere so we're sure there will be the fun, creative, biting tifos we've come to expect from this rivalry again in the future.
Timbers win an MLS Cup and announce: “(Bleep) Seattle!”
When the Timbers won the 2015 MLS Cup, they were as excited as you think they’d be. They held celebration rally (in the rain, of couse) where players and staff shared their gratitude and fans sung Timbers songs in a night to honor all things Portland.
That is, until then-captain Will Johnson made sure everyone knew who had the leg-up in the Timbers-Sounders rivalry. It didn’t take much – just blunt and direct chant he offered that simply went, “(Expletive) Seattle!”
The fans loved it, but this is a family-friendly website, so no F-bombs here.
The Sounders clap back, win an MLS Cup and send Portland NSFW message in return
The Timbers had their fun: They won an MLS Cup and called out their rival, trophy in hand. But they couldn’t bask in it too long. The very next season, the Sounders won and their had their own celebration rally, where they did the same thing.
In front of a massive crowd, captain Clint Dempsey emerged from the crowd of players on stage to offer some brief, but powerful words: “All I got to say is, now that we won one, Portland can't say (bleep)!”
Dempsey didn’t say much at that rally, but it’s quality over quantity. You can bet those words reverberated over the Washington-Oregon border into Portland.
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