Saturday afternoon began unlike any other day before it in Major League Soccer, with Seattle Sounders FC lifting their Concacaf Champions League championship banner.
It ended just as uniquely, in a historic 3-0 Portland Timbers victory over their hated rivals before 47,772 fans at Lumen Field during Heineken Rivalry Week.
“It’s huge, especially to play against that crowd," Timbers goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic said of the result. "There were a lot of people and it was the first time for me to play against so many fans. It’s a nice feeling here when you make them quiet."
Seattle may be the first-ever CCL champs from MLS, and Portland may still be trying to overcome the disappointment of the heartbreak of losing on penalties at home in MLS Cup 2021 vs. New York City FC.
But Portland’s largest-ever MLS margin of victory at their northern neighbors and seventh consecutive regular-season match earning points in Seattle (5W-0L-2D run) will certainly help the healing process.
"When you come here, the fans make you understand that you’re on the rival's court," Timbers manager Giovanni Savarese said afterward. "You can feel the stadium. It was extra sweet that we were able to get a good win. I think the game built up in a way that pushed us to be a little bit more emotional. I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved. The players, the way they play, their unity, how they fought to win, how we found the goals. All around the guys did a phenomenal job."
The Timbers still sit a point beneath the Western Conference's Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line, as do the Sounders after both clubs began their respective league seasons slowly. And the score may have flattered the visitors in some respects.
Jaroslaw Niezgoda’s 24th-minute opener came definitively against the run of play. Ivacic made an important early save on Nicolas Lodeiro, the Sounders believed they should have had a penalty when Lodeiro tangled with Josecarlos Van Rankin, and Raul Ruidiaz struck the left post just before halftime.
But Seattle defender Jackson Ragen’s ejection for his second bookable offense moments into the second half changed the encounter. By the time Santiago Moreno converted from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute and Dairon Asprilla added another on the counter in the 85th minute, Portland were worthy winners and holders of a five-match unbeaten run (3W-0L-2D).
"We know how important this game is for the city, the fans, the club, for us as players," said midfielder Diego Chara. "The chance to come here to play and score the goals that we scored I think feels great right now.”
As sweet as it was for all the Rose City faithful, it was maybe more so for Ivacic.
His only other appearance in this rivalry came in a 6-2 loss at Providence Park, where the Sounders stomped all over Portland on their home turf.
"I don’t even want to think about the last game that I played against them," Ivacic said. "But it’s behind us, as the game today is behind us. We have to look forward. Of course we’re going to celebrate today, but tomorrow we are in, and we have to continue like that because we still have to catch the playoffs.”
WATCH: Portland Timbers claim Cascadia clash with 3-0 win over Seattle Sounders