Posted by: Matt Gaschk
Schmetzer - "It was just unbelievable that the fans went to that much work and that much creativity to show us exactly how they feel. … Unbelievable. I’ll never forget it."
Decades of Dominance.
That was the message on the massive tifo display from the Emerald City Supporters before kickoff at Qwest Field when the Sounders FC took on the Portland Timbers in the opening act of the Cascadia Cup, MLS edition.
At the close of the national anthem, a huge banner of Fredy Montero was unfurled over the middle section in the south end. USL/A-League star goalkeepers Marcus Hahnemann and Preston Burpo followed in the sections adjacent to Montero. In the next section out, Jimmy Gabriel and Brian Schmetzer were featured. The five-sectioned display stood alone for a moment as a tribute to the history of great Sounders.
Then another display dropped from the 300-level, showing a giant fist crushing the Timbers logo, surrounded by two more banners reading “Decades of Dominance.”
Finally, Roger Levesque’s smiling face was raised on the net in front of the section with two words on the bottom of the giant banner - “48 seconds.” That’s how long it took Levesque - easily the most hated player in the long-standing rivalry - to score against the Timbers in the 2009 US Open Cup match at PGE Park in Portland.
“It was an honor to be considered in the group of players and coaches who were honored in that, dating back to the NASL days. It’s pretty amazing,” said Levesque, who first played for the Sounders in the A-League in 2003, coming on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes. “It’s been an honor to be a part of it and to see the transition and see this rivalry grow from when I first came aboard in the USL days to what it is and the potential for what it could be.”
Levesque wasn’t the only one represented in the homage to express his gratefulness to the countless hours and passion that went into putting the project together.
“I’m privileged to be associated with Jimmy Gabriel … and certainly Roger,” Schmetzer said. “I’d like to buy every single one of the Emerald City Supporters a beer. Everyone that worked on that, I’ll make it up to them at some point in my life.”
The unprecedented tifo display was the climax to a full day of events building up to the match for the supporters.
Hundreds streamed through Fuel Sports Bar for the Brougham Block Party beginning as early as 2 pm, launching the festivities six hours before kickoff. The same excitement could be seen and heard all throughout Pioneer Square as the enthusiasm was building.
At 7 pm, the ECS crowded into Occidental Park for the March to the Match, joined by the litany of fans that had already gathered in the park in anticipation of the traditional start to the rowdy atmosphere that has become the hallmark of Qwest Field.
The anticipation amongst the crowd was palpable as they began the slow stalk to the stadium and the reason became clear when they reached Occidental Avenue in front of Qwest. Dozens of flares and smoke bombs were lit, then the group parted momentarily to start a bonfire in the middle of the street, an ode to one of the ECS songs about their neighbors in Cascadia, Portland and Vancouver.
As the smoke filled the air, the intensity to the songs raised and the supporters filed into the stadium where the immense banners and 90 minutes of soccer awaited.
“It was insane. The only other atmosphere that equaled that for me was the opening game in 2009,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “I was pumped and excited to play. The crowd was nuts. It was awesome.”
Added Levesque, “The atmosphere was electric. There’s no question about it. There was just that much more excitement and energy in just about everything. The fans, the players on the field, the speed of play, the speed of the ball - it was electric, for sure.”
The Qwest Field-record crowd for a Sounders FC MLS match then provided the soundtrack to the 1-1 draw, never waning in the volume of the support, even as rain drenched Seattle.
“Our fans are the No. 1 fans in the league,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “They can say whatever they want down in Portland. We have the No. 1 fans in the league and we're disappointed we couldn't reward them with a win, but it just makes the next game all the more sweeter.”
The Sounders will get another chance at victory July 10 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland in what is sure to be another highly anticipated affair.