They may be sworn enemies, but this hasn't stopped the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders from scooping up each other's players. The two markets' close geographic proximity and the often fragile nature of US soccer has seen more than a few players trading their Timbers jersey for a Seattle one, or vice versa. In today's Three for Thursday, we look at players who have done just that — starting with a much-loved Sounders icon.
During a standout career at the University of Portland, Keller — who hails from Olympia, Wash. — spent the 1989 college offseason at the Western Soccer League version of the Portland Timbers (previously known simply as FC Portland).
Keller (pictured above in a photo illustration) was outstanding between the pipes, helping Portland turn around a 1-11 record the year prior into a playoffs appearance in '89. He allowed only four goals and registered eight clean sheets in 10 games — good enough for league MVP honors.
Keller returned to the Pacific Northwest 20 years later, and though he signed with the MLS expansion Seattle Sounders, he recalls his Timbers stint with affection.
"I have a lot of fond memories of UP and the WSL incarnation of the Timbers that I played in,” Keller said.
The Scottish-born midfielder suited up for the NASL version of the Sounders in 1983 — the club's final NASL campaign before folding. The Sounders finished that season with a losing record and failed to make the playoffs despite Bain's pedigree as a playmaker.
Where did Bain earn that pedigree? At the Portland Timbers, with whom he remains a club legend. From 1978-82, he scored a club-record 45 goals and added 55 assists, also best in team history. He made 148 appearances for the NASL outfit, good for second best all-time, and led Portland to the National Conference championship of 1978, which they lost to the New York Cosmos.
The Timbers folded following the '82 season, leaving Cascadia rivals Seattle to snap up Bain up in the dispersal draft. However, the Scotsman finished his playing career in Timbers green when he signed with the WSL Timbers in 1989.
The Mexican playmaker had a stellar career with the USL Portland Timbers from 2002-06, racking up the stats enough to establish himself in the top five of nearly every Timbers stats category, most notably in assists with 27 all-time helpers.
In '04, Alcaraz-Cuellar had a banner season, helping the Timbers win the regular season title while earning all-league honors. However, that year, the Timbers were bounced from the championship playoffs by none other than the Seattle Sounders.
But shortly after etching his name into Portland soccer lore, he failed to reach a new contract agreement and subsequently joined the Sounders for the '07 season. Then, to rub salt into Portland fans' wounds, he immediately delivered to the Sounders what he never could with Portland: a league championship.