On Saturday, the Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC will renew a long-standing rivalry in their first MLS meeting
The tales of matches in the A-League and USL days from Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, British Columbia between the Sounders and Whitecaps are aplenty.
2003 and 2004 both saw the Sounders go to Swangard in the playoffs and drive back on the team bus with a berth in the next round of the playoffs.
They had their share of heartbreak north of the border too, but those two playoff appearances rang through the memories of Roger Levesque and Zach Scott, who both played for the Sounders in the USL along with Taylor Graham.
In 2003, Levesque scored in the second minute of the second leg, only to have Dave Morris equalize for Vancouver in the last minute. Seattle would go on to win on penalties though, with Rich Cullen stopping Jeff Clarke on the decisive chance. Seattle went on to be eliminated by the Minnesota Thunder in the next round.
In 2004, they won 2-1 on aggregate and advanced to the A-League Championship against the Montreal Impact. They came into the match with a 1-0 lead, but gave up a goal in the 18th minute to equalize. Jason Farrell scored just before halftime to put Seattle back in the lead and left them to protect the lead in the second half.
The only problem was that they would play the second half defending the goal right in front of the Southsiders supporters.
“I remember it felt like a black hole where we could never get out of our half and we had our backs to the Southsiders. It just felt like everything got sucked in towards our goal,” Scott said.
Added Levesque of Seattle's victory, “I remember just sitting in two lines of four in our box, just bunkering in. They were just peppering balls in left and right. I remember that whole busride home was singing. That was definitely one of the better memories.”
Indeed, the Sounders held the advantage in the A-League and USL days over their neighbors to the north, having much better success than their NASL brethren. During the days of the NASL, Vancouver held a 17-13-1 advantage, but Seattle took control with a 42-25-7 record from 1994-2008.
In 2009, the Sounders joined MLS and packed Qwest Field in their inaugural match. Within days, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced with the Seattle crowd still buzzing in his head that the league would expand to Portland and Vancouver in 2011.
From that point, the three clubs awaited the dates when the Cascadia derbies would resume.
Sounders FC defender Jeff Parke played 11 matches for the Whitecaps in 2009, and said that, even then, Seattle was constantly on the minds of Vancouverites.
“They always talked about them. ‘Let’s go get Seattle,’” he recalled.
While the rivalry certain has a different air to it than the Seattle-Portland rivalry, the intensity is certainly present between Seattle and Vancouver.
“There’s not as much hatred as with Portland. There’s definitely that passion and that will that every time they step on the field you know it’s going to be a battle,” Levesque said. “We battled with Vancouver a lot. All three teams were very successful in the USL and Vancouver was, year-in and year-out, one of the best teams we played.”
For those who have been part of the excitement over the years, this is among the best weeks of the season. To Scott, there is only one comparison – one that the Sounders FC fans can surely relate to.
“Two years ago when there were rumors of Portland and Vancouver coming up it was something that I knew I wanted to be a part of,” Scott said. “I’m like a kid waiting for Christmas.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm from Qwest Field. The match will be shown live on Fox Soccer with Arlo White and Christopher Sullivan on the broadcast. Thom Beuning will handle play-by-play duties on the radio broadcast on 97.3 KIRO FM.