What’s It Take to Build a Bonfire? A look into Seattle vs. Portland

It’s no secret that there’s a rivalry between the Sounders and the Timbers. The history between these two teams is one of the richest and deepest in North America. On Sunday night, that history is set to continue.

I know what you’re thinking. “Here we go again, Another Cascadia Match.” And I absolutely don’t blame you if you’re approaching this match with the sort of apathy that comes with overhyped things. Be it the MLS PR machine propping up Seattle vs Portland for monetary gain, or be it the caricatures in each city ruining the fun for the rest of us, this matchup can be a bit exhausting at times. But, let’s not let the extremes ruin the reality: Seattle versus Portland is fueled by two passionate fan bases that love their teams. And that’s good fun for everyone involved.

Sunday marks the 92nd time that the Sounders face-off against the Timbers. This year marks the 40th year that this rivalry has existed, one of the oldest in North American Soccer. And hopefully, this year marks the year that Seattle is rightfully crowned the Kings of Cascadia once more. But, that won’t happen without a bit of work. We already know that Seattle has the better team, history, city, fans, stadium, and more wins, so What’s it take to build a bonfire? 

Offensively, things have taken a turn for the better for the Sounders in recent weeks. Just two weeks ago, No other Sounder had scored a goal besides Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Clint Dempsey was recovering from another hamstring injury. Lamar Neagle hadn’t recored a shot this season. Seattle’s 4 best midfielders hadn’t recored a single minute of playing time together. Now, after the 1-0 loss in LA, the Sounders are looking to build on a very impressive offensive performance against Colorado in their 3-1 win. That game saw a Lamar Neagle brace, and Oba did this. Clint Dempsey seems to be all healed up, as does Gonzalo Pineda. Osvaldo Alonso is back to full strength. Lamar Neagle has started to look like last season’s Lamar Neagle. And all of this comes not a moment too soon, as the Sounders are set to face their rivals. Who, defensively, are looking to distant themselves a bit from their former selves.

This is particular Portland Timbers side who have improved defensively. With the addition of Nat Borchers in the offseason, they have a very formidable pairing in their central defense with Liam Ridgewell. The Timbers have recorded three clean sheets this season, two of which have been achieved away from Providence Park. While some of their offensive identity has gone missing this season, mainly due to the lack of Diego Valeri, the Timbers have worked hard on improving defensively, and they’ve done well. This is a team that likes to play very physical, committing 92 fouls, which breaks down to 13.2 fouls a game. All of this is without their captain, and defensive midfielder, Will Johnson.

Defensively, the Sounders catch a bit of a break in not having to face a full strength Timbers squad, at least not offensively. So far this season, the Timbers have been without star creative midfielder Diego Valeri, and that has been very evident in their attack. Over seven games, this Timbers side has only put seven goals into the net, while being shut out three times. Also, they’ve only managed to score multiple goals in a game just once this season. Darlington Nagbe has done well in filling in for Diego Valeri, but hasn’t taken the next big step in his development that many MLS fans have been hoping for. Caleb Porter teams have classically been a possession oriented, but without Diego Valeri, they have to be much more direct. Which hasn’t produced the same results (Well, it has technically, because Portland has lived up to their Draw City name again this season, but you get the point). News came out this week that the MLS Disciplinary Committee had suspended Chad Marshall one game for “serious foul play” on this tackle. Which is a blow defensively for the Sounders, but not as much as one would think. Chad Marshall has missed one game this season, the 0-0 draw against Dallas. Zach Scott filled in adequately in that game, and he has put Fanendo Adi in his pocket the last time Seattle played Portland. Besides, what’s a Cascadia Cup match without Zach Scott? This will be the 36th time that Zach Scott has played against Portland.

All in all, this Sunday’s rendition is shaping up to be a classic Seattle v. Portland rivalry match: physical, wet, and entertaining. And, hopefully, it ends just as it usually does: With Seattle winning and Portland going home, whining. #FORC (Fart On Rose City for our PG-rated readers 😉 )


About Mark Kastner

Writer for Total-MLS & 32 Flags.