Thirty-six years of Northwest soccer history will come to a head tonight when the Timbers face arch-rival Seattle at Qwest Field in the first-ever MLS Cascadia Cup match. The heated rivals are tied for fourth place in the Western Conference as Portland looks for its first victory away from the House of Pane while Seattle hopes to win its third straight at home.
But more than that, this match between the PNW's most bitter pro-sports frenemies renews the famed "I-5 Rivalry" at a big-league level. There's no love lost between these two clubs, their fans and even management, all of whom represent a new breed in Major League Soccer.
The match goes live on ESPN2 and 95.5 FM at 8 p.m., and if you're not among the 36,000+ in attendance, do follow along after the jump for all the action on and off the pitch as I live-blog from a perch high above the synthetic grass.
Pregame—The Timbers Army has filled its section in the Northeast corner of Qwest Field, and the flags haven't stopped waving since the raucous group hopped off its 10 buses (each nicknamed after different Oregon breweries for the journey) and noisily made its way into the stadium. Qwest Field itself is a monster facility and the press box is gigantic, spanning nearly the entire west sideline.
There's a pretty steady rain falling, and it appears to be getting heavier. Nice and toasty up here, though. Lots of Rave Green panchos in the stands, a color that brings to mind guacamole. Not sure if that's what they were going for, but it's making me hungry.
Your starting XIs:
For Portland—Troy Perkins in goal. Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza up front. Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chará, Jack Jewsbury and Darlington Nagbe are at midfield. Rodney Wallace, Futty Danso, Eric Brunner and Jeremy Hall are on defense. Jewsbury is wearing the captain's armband, and the team is in its finest duds for the rivalry showdown, the Rose City Red kits.
For Seattle—Kasey Keller in goal. Nate Jaqua and Fredy Montero up front. Alvaro Fernandez, Servando Carrasco, Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans at midfield. Tyson Wahl, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni and James Riley on defense. Keller (a University of Portland product) is the captain. Sounders are in their Rave green blouses with blue shorts.
The skies have gone completely grey as the rain continues to pour. Seems fitting, really. And yeah, this place is pretty loud (even behind the thick glass of the press box) as the fans begin clapping in unison and I struggle to find many empty seats. Players are walking down a red carpet at midfield, and the Timbers kits look pretty damn sharp.
National anthem's in the books and the Sounders fans are unveiling their tifo. One behind the goal shows a Sounders-logo tattooed hand crushing a Portland logo and "DECADES OF DOMINANCE" covering the scoreboard. The Seattle beat writers say its the biggest display they've had this year, by far.
TA's tifo reads: "We're the Timbers Army, Who Are You?"
And, we're underway. Welcome to the Cascadia Cup, MLS. Welcome to MLS, Cascadia Cup.
1st minute—Timbers going right to left from my point of view, toward the North end. Perkins in his baby blues. Keller's doing the Johnny Cash thing, dressed in black.
4th minute—Wahl crosses for Montero, but he heads it wide. Montero's long-range shot in the third minute goes left of the goal and is gobbled up by Perkins.
5th minute—Hall chips one on-goal, but Keller gets under it like a shortstop catching an easy bloop. Jewsbury makes a run down the east sideline and crosses one in, but it's defended.
9th minute—Nagbe fouled to earn a free kick and now makes a nifty move to get to the goal line and earn a corner for Portand. Jewsbury doesn't boot it all the way in, instead leaving it for Wallace. Interesting wrinkle for first corner, catching Seattle a bit off-guard. They know Portland has been outstanding on set-pieces this season.
10th minute—Good aggression early by Portland, who will do well to get past the first 20 minutes without giving up a score. Something tells me an early goal might just send this place into a frenzy. Might.
13th minute—Perlaza leaves one for Cooper, who fires one on-goal inside the box, bit Keller's right there.
18th minute—Cooper with his second shot of the night, this one from distance. Again pulled in by Keller, who had to hop for that one.
19th minute—Chará goes down from an Alonso shoulder and it brings the teams together for the first chippiness of the match. Cooper, oddly, is right in the middle of it. Weird.
21st minute—A Jewsbury free kick sails in and is headed by Futty, but Keller goes to his right to wrangle it in.
26th minute—Spotting some empty seats around. Not in the lower section as much as the top level. Probably still officially a sellout, but it's not standing-room only.
28th minute—Alonso booms one from 30 yards out after a nice cross, but it sails on him. Fernandez goes down to earn a Seattle free kick, which is cleared out.
29th minute—Fernandez with a dangerous cross that brings Perkins up and earns the Sounders a corner. It's quickly cleared and Perlaza is fouled to slow Seattle's momentum a bit.
31st minute—Timbers a man up for the moment as Brad Evans writhes in pain on the pitch just outside the penalty area in his own end. He got better.
33rd minute—Keller forced to punch one out after a nice Alhassan cross intended for Cooper soars dangerously in front of the goal. Nagbe then shows some seriously fancy footwork to get around a Seattle defender. Even the home crowd gasped a bit at that one.
38th minute—A nice shot of the Sounders supporters' pre-game tifo. Well done.
40th minute—Corner kick for Seattle thwarted. Neither team wants to give up anything this late in the half, and I'm sure Portland will gladly go into the locker room tied at 0. For a team that was prone to defensive lapses leading to goals early in the season, tonight's start has been much more steady.
42nd minute—For Seattle, Roger Levesque in for Evans, who's favoring a sore groin.
45th minute—One minute of injury time. Sounders lining up a free kick from 30 yards. Montero blasts one just right and much of the stadium thinks it goes in. But it's wide, and we're still knotted at 0-0.
Halftime—0-0—Timbers are playing better than they have on the road all season, but legit scoring chances have been few and far between. Portland hasn't tested Keller much, and Seattle has seemingly been on the verge of netting one a couple of times. But, Portland's held an opponent scoreless on the road for the first time this season, which is a step in the right direction if they're hoping to get that first away victory. The rain hasn't let up at all—we'll see which team does in the second half.
Some stats: Seattle out-shot Portland 5-4, though Portland had a 3-0 edge in shots on goal. Each club earned four fouls, but no yellow cards for either side. Teams are back on the field now as the second-half kick-off approaches. On a personal note, I just ate a delicious doughnut.
Second half—And we're back at it ...
46th minute—Seattle gets it in the penalty box and Brunner makes a big defensive play by heading it over his own goal.
47th minute—A header off a Sounders corner goes just wide and catches the right exterior of the net and brings a gasp from the crowd (at least those who've made it back to their seats).
49th minute—Another corner kick for Seattle brought in by Perkins, but only after it slips out of his hands and right in front of a Sounder. Seattle is definitely pushing the action here in the early moments of the second half.
52nd minute—SOUNDERS GOAL—Fernandez is left all by his lonesome and the Timbers pay as both defenders go for the ball. Fernandez has a couple of touches and deposits one past a diving Perkins. Assist to Montero and Levesque. Too easy. 1-0 Sounders. How the Timbers respond over the next few minutes will be crucial. For the fifth consecutive away game, they're behind.
56th minute—Perlaza nearly sneaks one in after Alhassan plays one into him near the goal line and Perlaza gets enough of it to put a scare in the home crowd. Probably wouldn't have gone in, but Sounders are lucky to clear it and give Timbers a corner.
61st minute—Zizzo in for Nagbe.
64th minute—Zizzo shows his fresh legs with a nice run through traffic. He's tripped from behind to earn a free kick.
65th minute—TIMBERS GOAL—Futty out-leaps Keller and heads one in from nearly the same spot as he headed one in against Philly last week. Jewsbury gets the assist on the free kick from 45 yards out. A huge equalizer and yet another goal on a set-piece (the eighth for Portland this year) and Timbers Army is going nuts. 1-1.
68th minute—Sellout crowd of 36,593. The biggest-ever crowd at Qwest for an MLS game.
77th minute—Hall clears one out on a good chance for Seattle in the box. Montero puts one on-goal after it looks like Futty nearly gets a hand on one. Perkins looks relieved to escape that one unscathed.
78th minute—Zizzo, who's really brought a spark to the Portland side since entering, fires one, but it's wide left.
80th minute—For Seattle, Neagle in for Jaqua. And seriously, how have there not been any yellow cards in this one?
83rd minute—Corner kick for Seattle coming. Nothing doing.
84th minute—Ryan Pore enters for Perlaza, and he's immediately knocked down.
87th minute—Jewsbury fires one from just outside the penalty area, but it slides just left and low past a diving Keller.
89th minute—Alhassan with some nifty footwork and a shot, but it's right at Keller. A shot from distance by Seattle deflects off Brunner, and it's a corner coming for Seattle. It's punched away by Perkins, but Seattle's still pressing.
90 minutes—Two minutes of stoppage.
Stoppage—Sounders have possessed pretty much the entire time so far. Will the Timbers get a chance to try something here? Perkins has a goal kick coming, but not much time left.
Full Time—It's a 1-1 draw, folks. Timbers get the equalizer and hang on for the tie as Seattle presses hard in the final minutes.
Back from the locker room, and I'd say the Timbers are fairly happy with this one. Obviously, 3 points > 1 point, but to come from behind and nab a result in a hostile environment is a big step forward for this team. I'll be posting Spencer's postgame presser soon and will have locker-room interviews with Troy Perkins, Futty Danso and Eric Brunner tomorrow in my match round-up.