Portland Timbers fans take rivalry with Sounders FC to another level
The Seattle-Portland heated soccer rivalry continues Wednesday when Sounders FC plays a U.S. Open Cup match in Portland against a familiar foe, the Timbers.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The mudslinging began in earnest early this month, when Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers of the lower-tier United Soccer Leagues First Division found themselves on a collision course for a third-round match in the U.S. Open Cup soccer tournament.
When Portland won its second-round match two weeks ago, the rivalry had returned — Portland versus Seattle on the pitch once again.
The rivalry has spanned four decades, from the days of the now-defunct North American Soccer League to the 1990s and most of the 2000s, when both the Timbers and Sounders were in the USL. Seattle got a Major League Soccer team, and the Timbers, who will be in MLS in 2011, get their crack at the big boys in the Northwest, Sounders FC, Wednesday night at PGE Park near downtown Portland.
Think this one won't mean much to both teams? Think again.
There are still several former Sounders players on the Sounders FC roster who faced the Timbers in USL play up until last year, and plenty of Timbers who remember a fair share of rugged matches with the Sounders. Portland, which sits in third place in USL-1 with only one loss, will be a formidable opponent despite being in the lower league. And then there are the fans of both sides — the Emerald City Supporters and other groups from Seattle and the Timbers Army for Portland — who can't wait to bring back the old days with their chants from the stands.
The Timbers Army will be lying in wait for Sounders FC forward Roger Levesque, a pleasant fellow who for some reason hardcore Timbers fans can't stand.
"Regardless of whether they're picking on me, I just kind of brush it off. It's just good to see them out there and cheering," Levesque said.
Sounders FC assistant coach Brian Schmetzer is puzzled by Portland fans' attitude toward Levesque.
"Roger Levesque is one of the nicest guys I know," he said. "But Roger is on the most-wanted list of a lot of Portland fans."
Schmetzer said Portland fans claim that Levesque stepped on a Timbers goalkeepers' head during a USL match.
"Me? Nooooo, absolutely not. I would never do anything like that," Levesque said with a laugh. "I've been around for a long time. Scored a few goals, probably gotten into a few scuffles. Probably fallen over my fair share. I don't know, they need something to cheer about, something to get behind, so it's kind of me at times."
Levesque, a reserve, could see plenty of action Wednesday, as Sounders FC is shorthanded due to injuries and national team call-ups for the CONCACAF Gold Cup that starts in Seattle on Saturday. Coach Sigi Schmid will have to do some lineup juggling because Seattle just played an MLS game Sunday, but the motivation to play is palpable.
"We know it's not going to be your ordinary Open Cup game. It's a much bigger game because of the rivalry," Schmid said.
Schmid has attended and coached games at PGE Park before and has witnessed how boisterous even a crowd of less than 10,000 can get. The Timbers feature a guy with a chain saw who helps rev up the fans behind the north goal.
"The chain saw is a kick," Schmid said. "As long as it doesn't come on the field after me I'm OK, because I don't think I could outrun him, that's the problem. I'm sure they're looking forward to joining MLS, and I think their fans are going to be great for the league as well."
• Sounders FC's Nate Jaqua was named MLS Player of the Week for last week after scoring two goals and adding an assist in Seattle's 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Sunday. The forward last won the honor in 2005 when he was with the Chicago Fire.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
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UPDATE - 8:54 PM
Sounders lose to another expansion team
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