Record crowd for first MLS meeting
The opening match of the much-anticipated Major League Soccer rivalry between the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders ended in a 1-all draw Saturday night.
Alvaro Fernandez scored early in the second half for the Sounders, and the Timbers answered with Futty Danso's header some 13 minutes later.
Fittingly for the Pacific Northwest, the nationally televised match was played in pouring rain. The announced crowd was 36,593, a record for an MLS game at Qwest Field.
It was the first match of the Cascadia Cup competition between Portland, Seattle and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Unique because it was created by fans, the award takes on greater significance this season now that all three teams are part of MLS.
Seattle is now 3-3-5, while Portland is 4-3-2.
''I think it was a good game, kind of what you expected,'' Portland captain Jack Jewsbury said. ''I would have liked to get three points, but getting one is good, too.''
John Spencer, coach of the expansion Timbers, was pleased with the result, too. He had bristled this week when his team was called ''lambs'' because they are winless on the road.
''This may be the point that gets you into the playoffs,'' Spencer said.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid saw it differently, disappointed that his team wasn't able to get the win at home. The Sounders were hampered by injuries, with midfielders Erik Friberg (left ankle) and Mauro Rosales (hamstring) out for the match. Midfielder Brad Evans injured his right groin during the game and had to be replaced.
''The atmosphere was great. You had their fans, which is something you normally don't have, a loud group from the opposing team, so that added to the pageantry of the game, but at the end of the day, we're at home and we need to get three points at home,'' Schmid said.
The Timbers' independent supporters' group, the Timbers Army, took 10 buses the three hour's drive up Interstate 5 to the match.
Alex Creedy of Portland was wearing a bear suit. He said his bus sang Timbers Army songs the whole ride up.
''If I lose my voice, I know I've done my job,'' he said.
Portland's fan section was a pie-shaped sliver at the corner of the field. But the Timbers Army was most insulted when mascot Timber Joey was told by security that he couldn't wield his chainsaw during the match.
''The fact that we can't have it here is just a little bump,'' Timber Joey said after stashing the chainsaw in an ''undisclosed location.''
The management of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver agreed to set aside 500 seats for visiting fans for the games this season. Among the stipulations is those fans will be seated in one secured area of the stadium in an attempt to keep any hooliganism from cropping up.
Neon green-clad Seattle fans proved their readiness for the rivalry by unfurling massive banners proclaiming ''Decades of Dominance'' depicting former Sounders players and an image of a fist crushing a Timbers' logo.
The Timbers Army had their own, albeit smaller display, which in soccer is known as a tifo. ''We're the Timbers Army. Who are you?'' it read.
''Epic,'' said Sounders fan James Lee before the match. ''Epic.''
The rivalry between Portland and Seattle dates to 1975, when both teams were part of the North American Soccer League.
Seattle supporters like to point out that the Sounders beat Portland 1-0 in the first game between the two teams that year, while Timbers fans talk up how Portland beat Seattle in the '75 playoffs and advanced to the league championship.
The original Cascadia Cup was introduced in 2004 when all three Pacific Northwest teams were part of the United Soccer Leagues First Division. Fans pooled their money to buy the 2-foot tall trophy, which goes to the team that finishes with the best record in head-to-head matches between the trio, based on a points system.
In 74 total matches played between the teams since 1975, Seattle has 39 wins, Portland has 27 and there have been nine draws.
Seattle forward Nate Jaqua said he thought the excitement among fans translated to the field.
''Yeah, there was definitely a little bit more to it. I think everybody was kind of flying around a little bit more,'' Jaqua said. ''I think they did a good job the first half of letting us not get into a good rhythm. In the second half I thought we started playing well. We got the goal. We were kind of getting after them and had a couple of pretty good chances to put it away. We weren't able to do that and they were able to get a little bit of momentum.''
The Sounders came close to scoring in the extra time of the first half, but Fredy Montero's free kick hit a post and got caught in the side netting.
Montero nearly scored just a minute into the second half with a header from the right corner of the goal that barely missed.
The Sounders finally succeeded with Fernandez's goal in the 52nd minute that sailed past diving Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
The Timbers evened it in the 65th minute on Danso's goal. Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller rushed forward to stop Jack Jewsbury's kick, which Danso headed into the net.
''The coaches have been telling me, `Just put it on target,''' Danso said. ''That's what I did.''
Seattle will visit Portland on July 10. Vancouver travels to Seattle on June 11, with the Sounders going north on Sept. 24. The Whitecaps play at Portland on Aug. 20 and the Timbers become Vancouver's first opponent at remodeled B.C. Place stadium on Oct. 2.