PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland and Vancouver may be MLS’ newest expansion teams, but they make up one of North American soccer’s oldest rivalries. And there’s still no love lost between the Timbers and Whitecaps.
This is a feud that goes back to the 1970s and still harbors bitterness from just a year ago when the Whitecaps knocked the Timbers out of the USSF D-2 playoffs. And on Saturday at Portland’s JELD-WEN Field, the rivalry will be renewed under the MLS banner for the first time (10 pm ET; FOX Soccer, TSN).
“Everybody knows that this is a big game,” said Timbers forward Bright Dike (pictured above), who scored one of his 10 goals last season against the Whitecaps. “It’s going to be a fight, a battle. How good or bad a team is doing doesn’t matter in a rivalry, and everyone knows that.”
In addition to playing for the Cascadia Cup — comprising the series of games played between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver — the Timbers and Whitecaps come into Saturday’s match with different goals in mind.
Portland are five points out of the final wildcard playoff spot and are coming into the match riding a three-game winless streak. With 10 games remaining, the Timbers need wins to advance to the postseason.
Vancouver are the last-place team in the Western Conference and are playing for pride — with undoubtedly a slew of supporters making the trip down Interstate 5 for the match.
“Hopefully we give them a good licking and then shake their hand after the game,” Dike said. “I think we really need the points right now, too.”
The Portland-Vancouver rivalry dates back to the days of the NASL in 1975, and the teams met 21 times until the Timbers folded in 1982. Portland won the first six NASL meetings against Vancouver.
“The rivalry definitely adds spice to the game,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said. “But they’re all big games now. And, as we’ve seen, anybody can win on any given day in MLS.”
Dike comes into the rivalry riding high, having scored his first MLS goal in Portland’s last match, a 3-1 loss against Sporting KC. He had missed most of the year after suffering a ruptured Achilles during preseason and is eager to see the team that bounced his Timbers from the D-2 playoffs last season.
He said the Vancouver match might even mean more than Portland’s rivalry against Seattle, considering the teams' recent history. Seattle joined MLS in 2009, making the Timbers-Whitecaps second-division rivalry especially fierce the last two years.
“You never really want your season to end,” Dike said of last year’s playoff loss. “You look at how your season ended more than the beginning of the season or the middle. That’s what goes through your mind and what you remember last.”