Colors run deep: Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers still harboring 40-year-long grudge

Admit it: You’re just a little bit jealous of the Seattle/Portland rivalry. The cities are close – driving distance – the stadiums are downtown, the history stretches back to the 1970s and the memories have been some of the most remarkable in the history of two leagues.

So with their first showdown of the year looming this Saturday (8 pm ET; NBCSN, live chat on, let’s take a look at seven moments (no, we couldn’t narrow it down to just five) that define North American soccer’s best (yeah, we said it) rivalry:

Timbers and Sounders meet in first MLS Cascadia match — May 14, 2011

The MLS era of the Cascadia Cup began early in the 2011 season. On May 14, both teams met for the first time in MLS play at a rain-soaked then-Qwest Field with more than 36,000 in attendance. And Portland escaped with a 1-1 draw.

“From a club and player standpoint, this was probably the most important game,” former Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins told the Timbers website about that night. “That was probably the most important game for us as an MLS club, it certainly was monumental to go there and draw 1-1.”

Sounders beat Timbers 3-0 at CenturyLink Field — Oct. 7, 2012

Maybe not the most tense or even particularly important game in the grand scheme of either team’s season, nonetheless this was arguably the game where the nation got to see just how deep the colors run in Cascadia.

This was Auburn vs. Alabama, Red Sox vs. Yankees, Redskins vs. Cowboys. This was 66,000 fans screaming their lungs out in CenturyLink Field, and they were drawn not by fireworks, big-name players or foreign opponents, but to see two bitter rivals face off with little more than bragging rights on the line.

Roger Levesque, who had retired earlier that year, was given the honor of receiving a golden scarf and stayed on the field to play hype man, introducing the Sounders starters. That was followed up with a rather epic tifo by the Emerald City Supporters, depicting a poker-playing Sigi Schmid going “all in” on a full-house.

Sounders fans essentially didn’t stop cheering from that point forward, as a Timbers own-goal in the 25th minute opened the floodgates and the visitors never clawed back into it.

“That was one of those where the build-up to the game, our tifo, everything just culminated,” said defender Zach Scott, who has played for the Sounders since 2002. “I didn’t play in the game, but I would have ran through a wall to get onto the field. It was so exciting and so cool to think, ‘Wow this is where my career has come from playing Portland in front of 2,500 people under the Space Needle to playing in front of 65,000 at CenturyLink.’”

Timbers’ overtime 2-1 victory sends capacity crowd into delirium in NASL playoffs — Aug. 12, 1975

In a scene the current incarnation of the Timbers Army would be proud of, Portland defeated Seattle 2-1 thanks to a sudden-death overtime header goal by Tony Betts in a NASL playoff game nearly 40 years ago.

After the goal, much of the crowd of 31,000 who packed Civic Stadium (now JELD-WEN Field) stormed the pitch in raucous fashion. In was the highlight of the team’s inaugural NASL season that ended in the Soccer Bowl and a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Television analyst Cliff McGrath, the legendary Seattle Pacific University coach, commented on the pregame festivities, something that has not dissipated with the current-day Timbers.

“Some of these people have been here all day waiting to get in,” he said. “They’ve been in the stands at least two hours before game time, yelling and screaming and carrying banners. The air is electrified!”

Sounders beat Timbers 3-2 in overtime at Memorial Stadium — Aug. 2, 1975

It was electrified 10 days earlier, too.

With Sports Illustrated on hand to document the burgeoning rivalry, fans packed World War II-era Memorial Stadium to the rafters. On the field, it was just as intense as big bodies clashed against one another in a physical match. Portland’s Barry Powell scored the equalizer in the 90th minute to send the game into overtime.

The winner came just three minutes in when Paul Crossley made a deep throw into the box where John Rowlands was able to rise above defense and head it into the net.

Timbers get first MLS victory over Seattle — June 24, 2012

The Timbers’ first MLS victory over Seattle, a 2-1 win, was highlighted by up-and-down action, physical play and an extra-time melee that resulted in two red cards, all witnessed by a loud and wild sell-out crowd at JELD-WEN Field.

The Timbers rewarded their support – which included a giant tifo banner before kickoff that encased the entire north end of the stadium – with first-half goals by forward Kris Boyd and defender David Horst, and enough defense to hang on for the result.

The victory also helped Portland win the Cascadia Cup trophy, the three-team supporter-created derby.

Sounders beat Timbers 3-2 — April 30, 1977

More than 25,000 spilled into the Kingdome to watch Clyde Best scores two early goals and Jimmy Gabriel score the winner to give the Sounders the win.

It was Seattle’s first win of the season – and what a season it turned out to be. Their 1977 campaign culminated in a trip to the NASL Soccer Bowl, losing to the Pelé-led New York Cosmos in the Brazilian legend’s final game as a professional.

Pro soccer comes back to Portland — May 11, 2001

The Timbers opened their modern-day history as a United Soccer Leagues franchise at a newly upgraded PGE Park (now JELD-WEN Field) against Seattle almost a dozen years ago (at right; Photo by Allison Andrews /

It had been almost 20 years since the Timbers’ final NASL season and it had been since 1990 that the Timbers of the Western Soccer League last took the field. In a memorable night for fans and players alike, a spirited crowd of 12,295 at PGE Park witnessed the resurgence of a passionate Northwest rivalry as the Timbers downed Seattle 2-0.

Portland’s current general manager, Gavin Wilkinson, was a defender on that team.

“I think coming into that game, you get a little bit of a sense that we were a new team coming into a town that hadn’t had soccer for a while,” Wilkinson told the team website. “Basically, to see the passion that erupted within that first game was an inkling of what it is now but it was still a great insight into what the rivalry actually meant to both cities.”

Tune in on Saturday for the next installment.