For those people outside the Pacific Northwest region, let me explain something we call the Cascadia Cup up here. It’s a competition set up by the fans of the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, and Vancouver Whitecaps. It’s something that the fans here, already passionate beyond the rest of the MLS, feel incredibly strongly about and is not taken lightly at all.
With that in mind, Portland traveled north along I-5 to visit the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, October 7, with a lead in the Cup competition. A draw or win against the Sounders would capture the Cup for the Timbers, something the ECS (Emerald City Supporters) were loath to give to the Timber Army on the Sounders’ home field. Standing in Portland’s way was a five-game winless streak and a Seattle team already in the playoffs.
Greeting the ESPN Match of the Week TV audience was a huge 66,452 crowd, a record for the Sounders and the second-most for a regular season game in MLS history. It was electric before the match, as the ECS did their now legendary march to the match, parading the Cup in front of the teeming masses.
Inside the grounds, the home fans were loud and proud, singing, clapping, and cheering in unison in an atmosphere reminiscent of the best of world soccer.
It didn’t take long for the action to start either as both teams were inspired by the crowd and ran themselves like there was no tomorrow. Portland got the first shot attempt as Rodney Wallace missed with a header in the 17th minute.
Seattle opened the scoring in the 25th minute though, cashing in on an own goal by Mamadou Danso, who put the ball past his keeper, Donovan Ricketts, a second before Fredy Montero could. The goal came from some beautiful teamwork by the Sounders as Osvaldo Alonso put the ball through to Christian Tiffert, who dummied while letting the ball carry on to Adam Johansson. Johansson put in a great cross to Montero when Danso intervened.
That goal seemed to put Portland on the back foot as Seattle put the pressure on even more. It was only three minutes later that Eddie Johnson made it 2-0 for the Sounders as he came through unmarked, took a great pass from Brad Evans, and easily scored his 14th goal of the season.
Only a minute later Montero took the pass from Johnson and nearly made it 3-0 as he forced Ricketts to make a great save, pushing the ball off the post.
Portland tried to get closer, getting some very good shots in by Franck Songo’o on both sides of halftime that Seattle keeper Michael Gspurning smothered.
In the 62nd minute, Montero made up for the miss by netting his own rebound in the chaos of the box, getting to the ball just before Jack Jewsbury to make it 3-0 Seattle. It’s Montero’s career high 13th goal.
The match was physical from the first whistle, which could barely be heard above the crowd anyway. After going up 3-0, it got bloody as Jeff Parke collided in midair with a Timbers player, earning himself the red badge of courage.
Man of the Match
Picking just one man is just about impossible, as the whole of the team played that well. So, for this match, I am giving it to the ECS as a unit, for supplying an atmosphere that clubs around the world would feel hard pressed to match. From now on, whenever non-soccer people ask what the big deal is about soccer, they should be pointed to this game as an example of how overwhelming an atmosphere, and how exciting it can be.
The win means a Vancouver win over Portland on October 21 when the Timbers visit the Whitecaps will see the Cup stay in Seattle. It also would mean Seattle will move over the L.A. Galaxy into third place in the Western Conference, three points behind Real Salt Lake with a game in hand and the tie breaker in goal differential.
The Sounders will have a chance to make up those three points as RSL visits Seattle on October 17 for their next match.
Photo Credit: Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times