What qualifies someone to wear the crown as the King of Cascadia?
Fredy Montero pretty well established himself as the biggest star in the Cascadia Cup clashes, netting eight goals in ten career MLS matches against the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Roger Levesque was the most hated player in the rivalry’s history.
However, both are now gone from Seattle.
Zach Scott remains and has more matches than anyone else in the competition’s history. And while he may be able to share more stories than anyone else in the Northwest derby, the throne may now belong to one of two players who were new to the rivalry just a year ago.
Eddie Johnson did his part in 2012 to challenge Montero for the title with four goals and one assist in his six matches against the Timbers and Whitecaps. Offensively, nobody but Montero was close to him last season
However, one of his teammates just may best him for the title of King of Cascadia – goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. The Austrian net-minder posted three shutouts in four matches against Seattle’s top rivals, allowing just one goal along the way, as well as assisting on a goal from Montero to help earn a draw in Portland’s JELD-WEN Field.
“These are the big games,” Johnson said. “These are the games that as players we look forward to. We’re anxious and excited to play on the weekend.”
Both 2012 Sounders FC newcomers put a quick stamp on the series with the Timbers.
In his first match against Portland on June 24, Johnson scored a smashing left-footed goal, but Seattle fell 2-1. In their second meeting against the Timbers, also at JELD-WEN Field, Gspurning had a standout performance in his first match against Portland, launching a long free kick that Montero scored on to give them a 1-0 lead. However, the Timbers managed a goal against him in the 1-1 draw. Finally, at CenturyLink Field with a record crowd of 66,452 on hand, Gspurning made five saves to earn the clean sheet and Johnson scored in the 28th minute off an assist from Brad Evans as the Sounders blasted past the Timbers 3-0.
It is performances like that one at CenturyLink that has Johnson brimming with confidence as they prepare for their first clash with Portland of 2013 on Saturday in Seattle.
“We always play well against them at home,” Johnson said. “You couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere and better fans to play in front of on the weekend in this big game.”
Saturday is the first of three meetings between the Sounders and Timbers. The second match will be August 25 at CenturyLink Field, with the third and final match October 13 at Portland’s JELD-WEN Field.