Seattle v Portland – A View From Vancouver
by guest columnist Michael McColl (AFTN)
Ah, Seattle Sounders v Portland Timbers. As a Vancouverite, who do you cheer for in that particular battle?
The half joking answer is the referee and his red cards.
When it comes to MLS Western Conference and Cascadia Cup standings, then it has to be cheering for the draw.
The Whitecaps are sitting out “Rivalry Week”. The more cynical amongst you will probably say it’s because when it comes to the big derby days, be it Cascadian or Canadian, Vancouver are like a spare wheel; the kid you have to invite to the party but nobody really cares whether you do or not.
Canadian teams are 4 – 0 against US opposition so far this season after all, so we up north can just sit back and rest on our laurels for now.
It’s certainly fair to ask this in the modern day version of our longstanding rivalries. When it comes to the Cascadian derbies, do Seattle or Portland really care to lift their eyes from their own particular hate fest to worry about their nice Canadian neighbours?
It never used to be that way.
Back in the NASL days it was the cross border Seattle-Vancouver rivalry that got the juices flowing.
Personally, I’m very jealous of the animosity that the Seattle-Portland games seem to generate. It’s a true passion and true football hatred that is just what the game needs in North America. Hate is not always bad. Neither is tribalism. It’s what the game thrives on in the motherland.
The Caps might be on the outside, for now, but that kind of suits them just fine. They can then swoop in and be the first team to lift the Cascadia Cup for a fourth time, whilst Seattle and Portland fans are just happy that their arch nemesis hasn’t done it.
Baby steps though.
The Whitecaps have to actually win a Cascadia derby game against one of our Pacific northwest rivals first.
For that very reason, I’d like to see nothing better than a draw come Saturday, and if any of the key performers from either side find themselves missing a few, or a lot, of games afterwards, then that’s just an added bonus.
Yes, the pain of discovering Barry Robson was suspended on the morning of a derby game in Seattle still rankles up here.
The signs are there. Vancouver have put up 86% of Cascadia’s points in MLS so far this season and it would have been 100% if New York could keep hold of a lead. (Note to self – never let any New York Red Bull walk my dog).
Portland seem to have put together a stronger team than last season, but are not firing on all cylinders yet. At least Mikael Silvestre didn’t look like a deer caught in headlights against Montreal. And to think, just a short time earlier Gavin Wilkinson held the rights to Nigel Reo-Coker.
You can’t see their funk lasting too long, especially at home, but you never know. Dropping points is a hard habit to break in this League, as the Whitecaps have found out to their cost in their two seasons so far.
So this game is coming is at a key time for them. Having just one point from their first nine, and dropping five key points at home, is not playoff material, in what is going to be one hell of a competitive Western Conference this season.
What kind of Seattle side will they be facing? A tired one after their Champion League exploits or one buoyed by what even I have to admit was a fantastic victory from the jaws of defeat, or should that just be sheer opposition stupidity?
At least the Sounders haven’t had to travel. If they were heading back from, Mexico then Saturday could be a whole different story.
They haven’t had a great start to their 2013 MLS season themselves and are currently pointless.
Portland’s hopes may rest on Johnson and Johnson, whereas Seattle’s may be resting on just one Johnson.
However, on Tuesday’s evidence, the Timbers are also going to have to watch the goal threat from every part of the field.
Seattle have to go into this game as favourites, but as we’ve seen so many times before, Portland just lift their game against both their Cascadian rivals.
Vancouver felt the brunt of it last season and that’s what won the Timbers their third Cascadian Cup in the end.
Can they do it again? You should never bet against them, but I think we’ll see a 3-1 Sounders victory. And in the long run, when playoff positions become a lot tighter, this might just be the best result for Vancouver after all because you can’t see Seattle struggling to make the top five.
That said, I’m still rooting for the draw. And enough passion to see a few red cards.
Read more of Michael McColl’s Vancouver Coverage on AFTN