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A rivalry like no other: Five key moments that defined the Seattle-Portland MLS rivlary

The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers have faced off in over 100 matches across every iteration of professional soccer in the United States. The rich history of the rivalry has supplied countless seminal moments, each reinforcing the fierce enmity between each club.

Here are five moments that defined the rivalry since the Seattle Sounders entered Major League Soccer in 2009.

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Tree Chop Celebration

It’s one of the most iconic moments in Sounders FC history.

Four months after Portland was awarded an MLS expansion side, the Sounders ventured south down I-5 for a third round U.S. Open Cup fixture. Seattle asserted their dominance just 48 seconds into the match, as Roger Levesque’s diving header off a feed from Sanna Nyassi gave Seattle the 1-0 lead.

Levesque sprinted back to the halfway line and planted himself in a tree-like fashion as teammate Nate Jaqua pantomimed chopping him down. The celebration has since been memorialized in an ECS tifo, pointing to the significance it holds in Sounders lore.  

With Portland set to join MLS, it sowed the seeds for the next phase of the rivalry, with both clubs pushing the standard for what American soccer clubs could achieve.

Deuce’s Hat Trick

Rivalries are only as strong as the figures that personify them. One team’s hero is the opposition’s villain, and nobody exemplified this phenomenon quite like Clint Dempsey.

Arguably the greatest American soccer player of all time, Dempsey was an absolute force against the Timbers, posting nine goals and a 6-3-3 record 12 regular season appearances.

But it was the hat trick at Providence Park on April 5, 2014 that cemented Deuce’s place as the quintessential heel for Timbers supporters. Seattle jumped out to a 1-0 lead three minutes into the match, only to find themselves trailing 2-1 by the 14th minute. Dempsey equalized just ten minutes later, but the Timbers stormed back to take a 4-2 lead. Just when it seemed like one of the rivalry’s darkest chapters for Seattle, Dempsey scored two more goals after the 84th minute to rescue a point.

You can’t talk about the Sounders and Timbers rivalry without discussing Dempsey’s heroic performance in the 4-4 draw.

Red Card Wedding

Yes, it was the first time the Rave Green lost a competitive match at Starfire Sports. You could even make an argument that it derailed the Sounders’ title hopes in 2015.

But rivalries are defined by the highs and lows. And Seattle’s 3-1 loss to Portland in the fourth round of the 2015 USOC was one of the most enigmatic, unforgettable matches in North American soccer history.

What separates the rivalry is the genuine, deep-seated hatred between the clubs. The animosity was on full display that evening, as the Sounders finished the match in extra time with just seven players on the pitch following an injury to Obafemi Martins and red cards for Brad Evans, Micheal Azira and Dempsey.

If it seemed like facing the Timbers so frequently across all competitions was beginning to dilute the rivalry, the Red Card Wedding infused enough potency to fuel it for years.

2019 Cascadia Cup

The 2019 season had a different ambiance than previous installments of the Seattle-Portland rivalry, largely because the historic figures inextricably linked to the derby were nowhere to be found.

Caleb Porter and Sigi Schmid weren’t patrolling the sidelines. Evans, Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso weren’t there to takeover matches, and Chad Marshall had retired earlier in the season. It felt like the dawn of a new era.

The Sounders started this new epoch by securing the 2019 Cascadia Cup with a 2-1 win down in Portland on August 23. Mired in a difficult run of form, Seattle broke free from their stasis with a cathartic trophy lift at Providence Park, providing the spark for an eventual run to MLS Cup. Storied heroes for Seattle may have left the team in previous seasons, but players like Raúl Ruidíaz, Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan proved they’re ready to take up the mantle.

Cascadia Dominance

Since 2015, the Sounders and Timbers have proven that the Pacific Northwest is preeminent force in American soccer, as they have represented the Western Conference in MLS Cup each of the last five seasons.

Portland became the first Cascadia club to win MLS Cup in 2015. Seattle responded immediately by lifting the Cup in 2016 and returning to the title game the following season. In 2018, the Timbers knocked the Sounders out of the playoffs en route to the final, which served as motivation for the Sounders to collect their second star in 2019.

The Sounders and Timbers have set the standard of excellence for the Western Conference the past five years. A quick glance at Seattle’s trophy case demonstrates that they’re still the preeminent force in MLS.

For Portland's list of the five best moments of the rivalry, click HERE.

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