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Cascadia rivalry match set for Kino on Saturday night
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MLS preseason

Cascadia rivalry match set for Kino on Saturday night

Both soccer teams have strong local followings & traveling fans

  • A member of Timbers Army Desert Corps has a bit of fun at the expense of Seattle fans at a match at Kino on Feb 6, 2016. Don't expect her to use that banner this year.
    Ted Prezelski/TucsonSentinel.comA member of Timbers Army Desert Corps has a bit of fun at the expense of Seattle fans at a match at Kino on Feb 6, 2016. Don't expect her to use that banner this year.

While it lacks the fraught history and sectarian implications of rivalries in Europe like Rangers vs. Celtic or Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, the enmity between fans of the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders is real and palpable.

“Sounders fans are pretty much the worst people in the country,” says Henrik Nielsen, a Tucsonan and Portland Timbers fan. “I like to think of them as mostly confused Seahawks fans that heard about this other thing going on.”

That gives you a little clue what might be going on in the stands at Kino North Stadium on Saturday night when the two teams clash at 6:30 p.m.

Local Sounders fan Ian Wilson kept the bile inside and was a bit more analytical about the origins of the rivalry.

“I would equate it to Arizona. Portland views itself as the Tucson of the Northwest and Seattle is like the Phoenix of the Northwest,” he said. “It seems like they think they are more like real people. Seattle acknowledges that people think that’s the difference and make a joke about it...you’re dealing with people that think they are hot shit soccer fans and it’s really annoying.”

Okay, he kept some of the bile inside.

MLS is still a relatively new league that often seems to have either artificially imposed rivalries (Trillium Cup, anyone?) or short term ones (Chicago vs. New England during the Aughts). This rivalry, however, has staying power. It dates back to before MLS existed.

Both teams were around with their current names in the 1970s as part of the old NASL. Both, in one form or another, survived that league’s collapse and they kept that rivalry going until both teams were part of the USL. That means tensions have had over 40 years to develop.

They have both had recent topsy-turvy seasons. In 2015, Portland managed a respectable season with a 15-11-8 record. It was enough to get them into the knockout round of the playoffs, the MLS equivalent of a wildcard match. They scraped their way through the playoffs to an MLS Cup Championship and bragging rights to be the first team of the two of them to make the final.

Seattle waited until 2016 to win their first MLS Cup, after a season where it looked possible for them not to even make the playoffs for the first time since joining MLS. Changes had to come. After firing legendary coach Sigi Schmid, the team lost only two games (one was to Portland) and won MLS Cup. That was in a season, Sounders fans would like to point out, where Portland didn’t make the playoffs.

Over the last few years, Portland and Seattle fans have flown out for preseason in Tucson. Seattle and Portland fans attend each other’s matches, but Kino is a very different environment.

“The one thing that is pretty neat is how close the fans are,” said WIlson. “Here, you are literally three sections apart from each other. It’s all one loud environment. It’s more intense because you are right next to each other.”

While plenty of Seattle fans are expected, Portland’s Arizona fans are well organized into a group called Timbers Army Desert Corps. They aim to make a Portland style environment complete with the green smoke flares and tifos (large banners) that are seen at games the team’s home stadium.

“Every year, we do two tifos,” Nielsen said. “One of them gets painted down here, and one gets painted in Phoenix.”

Nielsen’s group bridges the gap between Tucson and Phoenix, but some chasms can’t be crossed.

“There will be a lot of them (Seattle fans) on Saturday because they have the strongest nationwide MLS following,” he said. “But, yeah, I hate ‘em.”

Ted Prezelski writes about all things soccer, fútbol and piłka nożna for TucsonSentinel.com and at the blog How Flair is Punished (mindingthe.net).


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