The Portland Timbers came back to tie the Seattle Sounders 1-1 in an epic match against their Northwest rivals on Saturday, May 14. The nationally televised match was ESPN’s Game of the Week and the whole world of soccer was watching.
Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard’s Bagdad Theater hosted a viewing party of the match and attendees got a chance to watch the game on the big screen. The normally subdued movie theater atmosphere transformed into a rowdy scene of football fanaticism with fans starting the chant “Hhhheeeeeeeyyyyy We're the Timbers” ten minutes before kickoff.
It was a rainy day in Seattle but that didn’t stop Timbers fans from packing their wedge of Quest Field. From the screen of the Bagdad, the Timbers Army looked ravenous. Rain poured down on the uncovered heads of supporters who held their “No Pity” scarves high. When ESPN’s cameras panned to the Sounders supporting section, a barrage of boos reverberated against the Bagdad’s walls.
The Timbers looked
sharp in their red away jerseys and with their play on the pitch. They controlled
possession most of the first half and made Kasey Keller earn his paycheck with three
cracks on goal.
The Sounders drew first blood with a goal from Alvaro Fernandez in the 52nd minute of the second half, but that didn’t take the fire out of the crowd on Hawthorn Boulevard. The Timbers battled back and with a goal from Futty Danso in the 65th minute and induced mayhem inside the usually placid environment of a movie theater.
Fans leapt from their seats and screamed wildly as they watched the ball find its way past Keller off the head of Danso from a set piece delivered by Jack Jewsbury.
Saturday’s match was more than a simple rivalry between Northwest MLS teams. “There is so much hype, not just here in the Northwest, but in the MLS and the whole soccer world,” said Eric Berg, coordinator for Timbers Army outreach who helped to put on the event at the Bagdad. “People have been talking about this match as the great American Cascadia rivalry and I think it lived up to its expectations.”
Berg was more than pleased with the result, especially because the Timbers were facing a one goal deficit early in the second half. “I’ll take a point. A win would have been epic. I would have led a parade down Hawthorne,” he said. “You always feel dejected when Seattle scores weather it’s the first goal or not, but I didn’t panic. I knew we could come back.”
The rivalry between Portland and Seattle dates back to the Timbers first days. Berg said that in the 1970s when Portland joined the A league, which later became the USL, the rivalry with Seattle started. The contention continued through the end of the century and prompted a group of fans to start the Cascadia Cup, a fan-based tournament between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. “We got together pulled money, bought a really nice gold cup, and award it to not only the team but the supporters of whichever team won,” Berg said. “This cup isn’t something that the league came up with. It isn’t something that the brand came up with. It originated from supporters. That’s symbolic of what this rivalry is about.”
It’s too early to say who will win the 2011 Cascadia Cup but in terms of national attention, the Timbers put on a show. “We tied Seattle in Seattle. This was our coming out party and we rose to the occasion,” Berg said.