“If you’ve got to motivate them for this game, then they need to play for a different club,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid when asked about motivating his team for Sunday's derby match against the Portland Timbers.
As the latest round of Cascadia Cup action arrives in Seattle, Sounders FC and the Timbers have very different weeks ahead as the two sides prepare to square off on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
While the Timbers are amidst preparations for a mid-week match with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night at JELD-WEN Field, Sounders FC has one thing on its collective mind this week – derby week.
“It’s only Tuesday, but you start to get the rumblings and it’s difficult not to get too excited too early and feel the butterflies,” Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said. “So you have to step away a little bit and focus on practice, focus on things that we need to do better before we face a good team in Portland.”
The rivalry is still new to many in the old-guard of Major League Soccer, as Sounders FC joined the league in 2009 and Portland followed in 2011, however the long-standing rivalry took roots in the North American Soccer League. The Seattle Sounders started play in that short-lived league in 1974 and were joined by the Portland Timbers in 1975. From that point forward, Seattle went 13-8 against their rivals to the south.
In the USL-1, they rekindled the rivalry in 2001 when Portland again joined Seattle, who had been in the league since 1994. Until Seattle made the move to MLS after the 2008 season, they battled 38 times, with Seattle holding a 20-13-5 edge.
Now back again in Major League Soccer, Seattle holds a 2-1-3 edge and will look to extend their all-time dominance, holding a 41-28-11 record against the Timbers since 1975.
The three-sided rivalry that also includes Vancouver Whitecaps FC has come to redefine rivalries in MLS, as stadiums pack with fans from home and away to be part of the derbies.
“It’s huge. It’s huge for MLS because the rivalry is a thing that sustains sports,” said Schmid, who saw another of the league’s top rivalries when he coached the LA Galaxy. “It’s huge for the Northwest because it really puts the stamp on the Northwest as being one of the hotbeds of soccer – if not the hotbed of soccer – in this country. When you can sell out CenturyLink Field for a game between two American teams, I think that makes a huge statement for our league.”
Added Evans, “It’s what defines MLS at this point – it’s this rivalry right here. Everybody will be watching. It’s obviously the biggest rivalry in MLS.”