Sounders coach, ex-player Schmetzer reflects on "depth" of Timbers rivalry

TUKWILA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer is far from a newcomer to his team’s ever-contentious rivalry with the Portland Timbers.

Schmetzer has been a part of the Cascadia soccer scene dating back to his days as a player with the NASL Sounders in the 1980s, then as Seattle’s head coach during the club’s days in the USL from 2002-2008 and as a top assistant after the club joined MLS in 2009.

This Sunday, however, will mark a first even for Schmetzer.

The Sounders meet the Timbers at CenturyLink Field (9:30 pm ET; FS1 in US, MLS LIVE in Canada) for the first time since he took over as Seattle’s interim boss late last month. As he prepares for his first Cascadia Cup match as an MLS head coach, Schmetzer dished out some of his favorite memories associated with the showdown.

“I think I’d put it this way: It’s a regional rivalry between cities, between soccer teams, between fans, between players,” Schmetzer told reporters this week.

“I mean, there’s a lot of depth to the rivalry. I remember going down and playing reserve matches down in Pacific Stadium, coaching there with the USL team and MLS. I’ve been through a lot of these. It’s a really good rivalry and it’s intense and all the guys get up for it.”

One of his fondest memories, Schmetzer said, comes courtesy of former Seattle midfielder Roger Levesque, and is one that would become immortalized in Sounders’ history.

In a third-round US Open Cup matchup in Portland back in 2009, Levesque scored a diving header just 48 seconds into the match before performing a choreographed “tree chop” celebration with teammate Nate Jaqua – an idea the pair had hatched on the bus ride down from Seattle.

“When Jaqua cut Roger down, I mean, that was funny,” Schmetzer said on Thursday. “That was good TV, so that’s one I can remember.”

Schmetzer says the fan dynamic of the rivalry is one that is unique in MLS, recalling a particular instance during a stop at a Starbucks in Portland where a Timbers fan saw that he was wearing Sounders gear, then promptly showed him dual middle fingers before exiting the store.

A couple of instances that drew the ire of current Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson also stand out in his mind, Schmetzer said.

“There’s been some good ones,” he said. “There was the time Sanna Nyassi fell over when we were winning and someone stepped on his pinkie. And Gavin was going crazy because he thought we were wasting time. There’s a lot of good stories like that.

“There was the first MLS story with the uniform scandal, where we didn’t bring the right uniforms and, again, Gavin got pissed. So there’s a lot of good stories.”

Schmetzer and the Sounders will have ample opportunity to add to that memory bank as they see out the month of August with back-to-back showdowns. Sunday’s match at CenturyLink will be followed by a road trip to Providence Park to take on the Timbers again on August 28.