On Saturday when Seattle’s bus pulls into Providence Park in Portland, Gonzalo Pineda knows just what to expect from the Timbers fans that line the street waiting to enter the stadium. He knows the wall of sound emanating from the Timbers Army and the bellows of support from the corner where Sounders FC supporters are stationed. He has never played a match in the Cascadia derby, but he has seen plenty in the realm of rivalry matches.
And he can’t wait to be a part of it.
“I’m just waiting for that day. I’m excited to be away…the pressure is bigger and everything is against you. I like that. I like that pressure. I like that emotion, that atmosphere,” Pineda smiled. “This is why I love soccer.”
Though he is new to MLS and its rivalries, Pineda played in two of the most heated rivalries in Mexico while with Chivas de Guadalajara and Pumas. Pineda played 181 of his 289 matches in Liga MX with those two clubs, both of whom played fierce Clasicos with Club America in Mexico City.
Those types of matches elevate Pineda’s already competitive nature.
“You can’t explain it with words. You try to enjoy the game, but there is a lot of pressure all week before the game. The fans are going to support you, but you can’t lose that game,” Pineda said. “The atmosphere in the stadium is just amazing. It’s a great experience to be there.”
While the Chivas-America rivalry draws the whole country into the fold as the two biggest clubs in Mexico meet, the derby between Pumas and America provides a better atmosphere, according to Pineda, noting that he anticipates a similar emotion at Providence Park on Saturday.
“There is a lot of hate between the two teams,” he said. “Everybody is talking about this game and I can imagine it’s going to be very similar.”
He also played for Mexico the last time the U.S. and Mexico squared off at University of Phoenix Stadium, as they will tonight in a friendly (8 pm PT, ESPN).
That rivalry draws out a different kind of emotion altogether. In those matches, club allegiances are cast aside and the only thing that matters to fans in Mexico is the success of El Tri.
“Everybody in Mexico is very excited about these games. It’s a game with a lot of passion,” Pineda said. “When you’re playing for your national team, the whole country supports you. Everybody is watching that game. It feels so good to be on the field.”
On Saturday, Pineda will bring those experiences to the field as Sounders FC meets the Portland Timbers for the first time in the 2014 season. The two clubs have three matches on the schedule, with the remaining matches coming on July 13 at CenturyLink Field and August 24 at Providence Park.