Sounders say more Cascadia Cup games won't dilute the rivalries
Starting Saturday in Vancouver, the Sounders play six Cascadia Cup games this season instead of the usual four. Will the two extra games played by Seattle, Vancouver and Portland dampen the excitement for the Pacific Northwest rivalries?
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sounders FC @ Vancouver Whitecaps,
Latest from the Sounders FC blog
TUKWILA — For the first time this season, it's Cascadia week for Sounders FC.
And there will be a lot of them in 2012.
With MLS's shift to an unbalanced schedule, Seattle plays six rivalry games against Pacific Northwest foes Vancouver and Portland this year instead of four. The first comes on the road at 2 p.m. Saturday against the Whitecaps, but the extra Cascadia games have caused some to worry that the fervor surrounding the rivalries has been diluted.
If it has, you couldn't tell from the Sounders.
"I would say the more times we play, it's just going to fuel the fire," said Roger Levesque, who played for the USL Sounders from 2003-08. "In the current state in MLS, we've only had a few games with Portland and a few games with Vancouver, so it's something that's building and just continues to grow."
Seattle was awarded the fan-sponsored Cascadia Cup last season after earning the best record in games among the three clubs. The trophy was founded in 2004, but the rivalries date to the 1970s in the North American Soccer League.
"I think those games are always going to be good rivalry games," said coach Sigi Schmid. "(The players) know the proximity and the relationships of the cities, and know that our fans and their fans are competitive in nature. We're looking forward to this game."
But Keith Hodo, a co-president of the Emerald City Supporters, the Sounders' largest supporters group, has some concerns.
He said in an email that the buzz within ECS before this weekend's trip to Vancouver isn't the same as last year. An increase in the amount of rivalry games tends to lessen the importance of each, Hodo argued.
The ECS have done their part to make sure that isn't the case.
Seattle plays two road games in Portland and two in Vancouver this season, while hosting each rival just once. Despite the imbalance, which is scheduled to switch in 2013, each game will count toward the Cascadia Cup standings. Hodo said the ECS agreed to that format instead of something more equitable in order to ensure each game mattered.
General manager Adrian Hanauer has expressed preference for a balanced schedule, but doesn't think the rivalries will be affected by the changes.
"These are big games for our fans, for the club, for U.S./North American soccer — these games do get more attention," Hanauer said.
The Sounders have 11 newcomers this season, but it hasn't taken them long to notice a different feel this week. Even if they are being introduced to the Northwest version, soccer rivalries are universal.
Defender Adam Johansson, signed in December, quickly recalls last year's clashes with GAIS in the Swedish first division when he played for IFK Goteborg. Rookie midfielder Andy Rose didn't have a college rival last year at UCLA (USC doesn't have a men's soccer program), but remembers playing club games for Bristol City against the Bristol Rovers as a teenager in England.
Schmid joked there's an easier way for new players to learn the history of the Cascadia rivalries, and it involves the team's USL carryovers.
"We lock them in a room with Zach Scott and Roger, and eight hours is usually all it takes," the coach said with a smile. "By the time they get out of that room, they know what it means."
• Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (hip), midfielder Brad Evans (calf) and defender Patrick Ianni (back) are all unlikely to play Saturday, Schmid said.
• Johansson learned Monday that he wasn't part of Sweden's roster for the UEFA European championship this summer. It's still possible he could be added to the national team as an injury replacement.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com. On Twitter @joshuamayers.
|The 2012 Cascadia Cup competition begins Saturday when Sounders FC plays at Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The trophy has been given to the Sounders, Whitecaps or Portland Timbers since 2004, awarded to the team with the best record in league matches between the three teams.|
*Only Vancouver and Portland competed for the Cup in 2009 and 2010, with the Sounders playing in Major League Soccer. In 2011, with Vancouver and Portland joining MLS, the competition included all three teams again.
|Kings of Cascadia|
|The Sounders won the Cascadia Cup in 2011, the first year all three Northwest teams played in MLS. Seattle was 2-0-2, Portland 2-1-1 and Vancouver 0-3-1.|
|May 14||at Seattle 1, Portland 1|
|June 11||at Seattle 2, Vancouver 2|
|July 10||Seattle 3, at Portland 2|
|Aug. 20||at Portland 2, Vancouver 1|
|Sept. 24||Seattle 3, at Vancouver 1|
|Oct. 2||Portland 1, at Vancouver 0|