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The world tuned in to to see a spectacle, and while the supporters groups lived up to expectations, more than a few people are bound to be disappointed with the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers settling for a 1-1 tie on Saturday in the first Cascadia Cup match of the MLS era. The Sounders grabbed the lead on a 53rd minute by Alvaro Fernandez, but the Timbers equalized in the 65th minute on a goal by Mamadou Danso.
It was a match that the Sounders controlled, at least in the second half, but they were rarely able to threaten the goal after grabbing the initial lead. Fredy Montero twice hitting the side netting, first on a free kick at the end of the first half and then on a header just a few minutes after Fernandez's goal.
That inability to build on their lead, came back to bite the Sounders when the Timbers were awarded a free kick from about 30 yards out. Jack Jewsbury, arguably the most dangerous taker of set pieces in the league so far this year, sent a ball into the middle of the goal box. Danso, who stands 6-foot-3, was able to out jump the Sounders defenders and beat goalkeeper Kasey Keller to the ball. It was the eighth goal the Timbers have scored this year on a set piece and was the fourth assist for Jewsbury, all of which have come on set pieces.
The tie leaves both teams sitting on 14 points, but it was just the second point the Timbers have earned on the road this year. The Sounders have not won in their past three matches.
One of the bigger disappointments for the Seattle Sounders this year has been the production of Nate Jaqua. The big target forward has failed to produce a goal in any of his seven appearances and has not scored a goal in MLS play since the 2009 season. Now, he's come off in exchange for Lamar Neagle in the 79th minute.
To be fair to Jaqua, he has been battling injuries since the start of last season and has found himself on the bench even when healthy behind the likes of Blaise Nkufo last year. With so many injuries, especially to offensive players, the Sounders were really hoping to get more production out of him.
On the Timbers side, Jorge Perlaza has been removed and been replaced by Ryan Pore in the 83rd minute. Pore is one of a handful of Timbers players who have actually experienced playing against the Sounders. Pore was with the Timbers in 2009-10.
The Portland Timbers have been absolutely deadly on set pieces all season and just showed why, once again. Mamadou Danso scored the equalizing goal in the 65th minute off a delivery from Jack Jewsbury. They are tied with the Seattle Sounders 1-1. The goal was almost an exact replay the one Danso scored against the Philadelphia Union last week and is the eighth off a set-piece for the Timbers.
On the goal, Jewsbury took the kick from about 30 yards out and delivered into the middle of the box. Danso, probably the tallest player on the field, was able to outjump everyone and beat Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller to the ball.
Just a few minutes earlier, Sal Zizzo had entered for Darlington Nagbe. The No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick had looked strong during the first half, displaying some clever moves to create a couple scoring chances against the Seattle Sounders. Nagbe has failed to go more than 82 minutes in any match this year and was making just his third start.
Alvaro Fernandez has not played long for the Seattle Sounders, but he sure does have a knack for scoring big goals. The Sounders midfielder took a pass from Fredy Montero just inside the penalty area, settled the ball, took a dribble and beat Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins for his third goal of the season, giving Seattle a 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute.
The scoring sequence started when Roger Levesque, who entered the match as an injury substitute for Brad Evans late in the first half, was able to get the ball to Montero with a header. Montero then found Fernandez, who was just barely onside, wide open on the left side. Levesque, who picked up an assist on the play, has made a career out of coming up big against the Sounders most hated rivals. Levesque has been playing for Sounders since 2003 and has described his relationship with the Timbers as hate-hate.
The Seattle Sounders don't seem to be able to catch a break as far as health goes. With Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White already out indefinitely, they received more bad news when Mauro Rosales and Erik Friberg could not suit up for Saturday's match against the Portland Timbers. Now, they'll be playing the second half without another starter: Brad Evans, who has a right groin strain.
Despite being somewhat shorthanded, the Sounders seemed to have the better chances in the first half, although it ended 0-0. The best chance came just before the halftime whistle, when Fredy Montero sent a free kick from about 20 yards out just wide of the goal.
The Timbers did managed to put three shots on goal -- to none for the Sounders -- but none of them really challenged goalkeeper Kasey Keller. The Timbers had four first-half shots and the Sounders ended the half with five.
One of the things, perhaps the thing, that has kept the Seattle Sounders-Portland Timbers rivalry so strong through the years has been the sense of continuity. On the current rosters, no players represents that aspect of the rivalry more clearly that Roger Levesque. Although not a starter, the Sounders utility player continues to be a big part of the team. So it only makes sense that he would enter Saturday's Cascadia Cup match as a 42nd minute injury replacement for Brad Evans.
Levesque, who just might be public enemy No. 1 for the Timbers Army, has tormented Portland for nearly a decade, first as a member of the USL Sounders and then as a member of the MLS team.
Evans was forced to sidelines with what appeared to be a groin injury that was re-inflamed after a tackle around the 35th minute. Evans stayed on the ground for several minutes before trying to walk off the injury. It quickly became apparent that he was not going to be able to continue to play.
At the start of Saturday's Cascadia Cup match, just one player from Portland Timbers' starting lineup had actually ever played against the Seattle Sounders. That doesn't seem to have hurt either team from playing with the emotions you'd expect in a heated rivalry such as this.
Both teams have gone into tackles with a little something extra and fought for every loose ball. The highest moment of drama came around the 19th minute when Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso clashed with Timbers midfielder Diego Chara. The Timbers Designated Player went down in a heap, holding his face while teammates rushed in looking for some kind of card. No card was shown, though, and replays seemed to show Chara absorbing nothing more than a shoulder.
The rain, which has been coming down steadily ever since right before kickoff, seems to have only enhanced the atmosphere, which features slicker-clad fans throughout the stadium. The rain has not stopped fans from both sides from being in full-throated chanting.
The Timbers Army rightly gained a lot of publicity for their tifo during their first-ever MLS match, but the Emerald City Supporters may have outdone them, at least in terms of sheer magnitude. Just prior to kickoff, ECS unfurled a nine-part tifo that featured the likenesses of six current and former Sounders, as well as a sign that read "Decades of Dominance" that was offset by a hand crushing the Portland Timbers crest.
The tifo supposedly used more than an acre of fabric and started with the unfurling of a likeness of Fredy Montero. That was followed by tifo featuring former USL Sounders Preston Burpo and Marcus Hahnemann. The final images to be unfurled were those of former NASL sounders coach Jimmy Gabriel and former NASL player, USL head coach and current assistant coach Brian Schmetzer. In the five images, every iteration of professional soccer in Seattle was represented, including the WSL team for which Schmetzer played.
If the Timbers Army Wanted to send a message about what kind of numbers they could bring to Seattle for Cascadia Cup matches, they certainly seem to be doing it. An hour before the match, their section of 500 seats in the northeast corner of the stadium are jammed packed. Just for good measure, they also hung a "Kings of Cascadia" banner that seems aimed directly at their Seattle Sounders counterparts, Emerald City Supporters.
A half-hour before the match, the two supporters groups are in full voice, chanting and screaming in a light drizzle that is falling down over Qwest Field. ECS, for their part, has two of their three sections in the south endzone full about a half-hour before game time.
Prior to the game, ECS led their March to Match which featured flares and smoke bombs, as well as a full chorus of chanting and singing. Although it is a tradition that started in 2009, this one seemed to carry a little more importance than normal.
Servando Carrasco will receive his third start of the year, and start for the second game in a row, for the Seattle Sounders as they prepare to play their biggest rivals, the Portland Timbers, in the first game of the revived three-team Cascadia Cup. Erik Friberg, who has started the past three games at center mid, did not suit up for the match after suffering an undisclosed injury at practice on Friday. This likely means the Sounders will be in more of a standard 4-4-2, rather than their 4-diamond-2 that they had been employing since the injury to Steve Zakuani. Mauro Rosales has also been left off the gameday roster.
The only surprise, if you can even call it that, in the Timbers' lineup is Darlington Nagbe, who will start on the right for the second straight game. Nagbe had missed the early part of the season as he recovered from sports hernia surgery.
Sounders starters: Keller; Riley, Ianni, Hurtado, Wahl; Evans, Alonso, Carrasco, Fernandez; Montero, Jaqua. Bench: Boss, Fucito, Gonzalez, Levsque, Neagle, Parke, Scott.
Timbers starters: Perkins, Hall, Brunner, Danso, Wallace; Nagbe, Jewsbury (C), Chara, Alhassan; Cooper, Perlaza. Bench: Gleeson, Horst, Purdy, Marcelin, Moffat, Pore, Zizzo
Way back at the start of the season, the front offices of the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps met with MLS officials to discuss Cascadia Cup away-ticket allocation for the various supporters groups. The league standard is 150, and supporters groups made it very clear that they would not be satisfied with that. Long story short, the sides settled on 500.
To the average North American sports fan, that may seem like an awful lot of tickets to guarantee to visiting fans. But for Sounders and Timbers supporters, in particular, that is seen as barely a starting point. The Sounders, because they theoretically have another 30,000 or so seats that they could choose to open, are generally painted as the bad guys in all this. Some of the more extreme elements have gone as far as calling it a "sham" and a "disgrace" on various social-media platforms.
At least one high-profile figure has thrown his support behind opening the floodgates to away fans. Alan Hinton, who coached both the NASL and USL versions of the Sounders after standout playing career in England, thinks the concerns over fan violence are way overblown.
"The disappointing thing for me, I don’t personally have a problem with Portland fans getting tickets for several thousand people here because we have the capacity," said Hinton, who still works for the Sounders on their gameday broadcasts. "It disappoints me that they are restricted to 500 pepole. I know why, becuase we they can’t take us down there and vancouver can’t take more than 500 when we go there. But for me the better atmosphere is created by more and more people.
"I know if I were a Sounders player and I could here 5,000-10,000 Portland fans cheering in our stadium, I’d want to stick it to them and would want to play harder. It’s going to be a great crowd, great enthusiasm. It will be a right battle."
It should be noted that the leadership of the various supporters groups seem to have at least called off the dogs and are willing to work on expanding allocation for next year. Keith Hodo, the co-president of Emerald City Supporters, recently told the Seattle Times that they are focused on making sure Saturday's affair goes off without incident:
"We just want to be proactive and remind our members that we have a goal, and that goal is to bring more than 500 people to Portland away and Vancouver away. There's been some behind-the-scenes things that have gone on that have been kind of rough. It'd be nice if we had a little bit more trust and leeway, and by taking a proactive stance it reminds our members that they just shouldn't mess around tomorrow. It's a very serious thing."
As you probably know, both Keller and Spencer spent quite a few years in the EPL and met each other on the pitch numerous times. Keller was a goalkeeper at Millwall and Spencer was a forward at Chelsea in the 1990s. The two London-based clubs shared quite the rivalry in those days, and Spencer and Keller played a significant role in one particularly memorable moment.
With the game in penalties, Keller stopped a shot from Spencer to clinch the victory. Almost immediately, Millwall fans stormed the pitch, kicking off what can only be described as a riot. Here's how Spencer remembered it, according to the Seattle Times:
"Yeah, we were playing Chelsea and John was the fifth shooter. We had scored the fifth, then I saved John's penalty and we went through to the third round of the FA Cup, knocking out Chelsea. I like to remind him a lot when I see him. But like I've said, John's a great guy. He's a good personality for this rivalry and I'm just looking forward to Saturday and letting the play dictate what happens."
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The Portland Timbers have made quite a name for themselves after four straight wins at home. They have not been nearly as good on the road, though, where they have just one point in four matches. After scoring seven goals in their first two games at Jeld-Wen Field, Stumptown Footy -- SB Nation's Portland Timbers blog -- says their past two wins may be a better example of how they hope to play on Saturday against the Seattle Sounders,
What we will most likely see is the same mentality from Portland as we have seen in the last two league games, both 1-0 wins (albeit at home). Portland will cede possession to Seattle in Seattle's defensive third and force them to try and break Portland's defense down. Meanwhile Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza will do their best to put pressure on the backline of Seattle and not let them try and set up the perfect pass.
The Portland Timbers seem to be a little better than your average expansion franchise, but they haven't been great so far when away from home. They're probably going to struggle to play with the Seattle Sounders on the ground at Qwest Field tonight, but there is one significant advantage that the Timbers have over the Sounders, which Sidereal over at Sounder At Heart explains in his preview of the Cascadia Derby:
Portland's style of play is one that has always troubled the Sounders. Their offense largely comes from set pieces. Thanks to the delivery of Jack Jewsbury - who's developing into a poor man's Brad Davis - and the big trio of Kenny Cooper, Footy Danso, and Eric Brunner, any corner or dead ball within 40 yards of Kasey Keller will be a dangerous scoring opportunity. Though Seattle has improved on set piece defense recently, it's a problem that's hampered the team for most of its existence. The Timbers will be going down early and often to create set piece opportunities, and with three big targets the Sounders will have to rely on both centerbacks and some help from the target forward coming back to cover.
It's tough to see Portland scoring in buckets from open play tonight, but they will present a significant threat to Seattle on set pieces. Cooper, Danso, and Brunner are all massive men and they're all fantastic in the air.
As you have no doubt heard by now, the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers have a bit of a rivalry. It's a rivalry that has roots in the original NASL, carried over into something called the Western Soccer Alliance, was reborn in the USL and was kept alive in the U.S. Open Cup even after the Sounders joined MLS two years before the Timbers did.
That rivalry will be reborn on Saturday when the Sounders host the Timbers in the first of what is a three-sided derby that also features the Vancouver Whitecaps. Although the three teams share a stake in the Cascadia Cup, there's no denying that most of the vitriol that exists is between these two clubs.
While the rivalry exists largely in the stands where the various supporters have shown an intense dislike for one another, the participants are very well aware of the importance of the match. Among the first things Timbers coach John Spencer said when he was hired was to take a shot at the Sounders. After spending the last eight seasons with some version of the Sounders, Roger Levesque calls his relationship with the Timbers as "hate-hate."
The teams head into this match on even ground, both sitting on 13 points. The Timbers have won four of their past five matches, but all their wins were at home. On the road, they've claimed just one point in four matches. The Sounders have won their past two home games, and have claimed at least a point in seven of their past eight matches overall.
Spencer has said that he doesn't expect the league to take his team seriously until they start winning on the road. The Timbers have also not beaten the Sounders in their past four meetings and haven't won in Seattle since 2005. A win on Saturday could, indeed, herald the beginning of a new era.
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