On Saturday night, after a 2-1 Sounders victory against our rivals to the north, the Seattle Sounders winning streak continued to a new MLS record of 9 consecutive games. The 27 points in 9 games, has not only boosted the morale of the team and fans but has made a serious improvement in the playoff race. This streak and result from this game moved them into good playoff contention with arguably one of the easiest remaining schedules left.
Also, the Sounders officially clinched the Cascadia Cup trophy which is a fan-created trophy awarded to the team who does the best against the other Cascadia teams (Vancouver, Portland, and Seattle). This is their 3rd time winning it since all three teams entered MLS.
Raul Ruidiaz was exceptional for the Sounders as he scored a brace to lead the Sounders to their 9th consecutive win.
This miraculous winning streak came to an end as the Sounders lost 1-0 to the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night.
The Sounders suffered a couple first-half injuries to key players, which is not comforting as their fight for the playoffs continues. In the 35th minute, star striker Raul Ruidiaz came out with an ankle injury, later identified as a right ankle sprain. At the half, Chad Marshall was subbed off for Roman Torres due to a head-to-head collision that happened in the first half.
In the 65th minute, the away side scored a goal after a loss of marking off a cross from outside the 18. However, VAR was for once in the Sounders favor and disallowed it due to the goal scorer being offsides. (Seriously though it feels like the first time VAR has helped the Sounders and hasn’t hurt them!)
The Philadelphia Union were forced to go down to 10 men when Jack Elliot got a second yellow for a reckless tackle in the 89th minute.
The Sounders were battling to find the full three points with solid attempts on goal, however, in the 90+2nd minute, Philadelphia scored off of a bad clearance pass out of the back.
It’s been a tough few months in Whitecaps-land.With a record of 3-3-1 in MLS league play since the beginning of August, things don’t seem terribly dire on paper, but with the Vancouver Whitecaps currently sitting in 7th place in the West, it will be a nail-biter for the Supporters during the last six matches of the season while they await results from around the league to determine whether the Whitecaps make it into the 2018 playoffs.
The last eight matches have provided both unbelievably heart-wrenching lows and spectacular highs. From a déjà vu-inducing equalizing own goal from Doneil Henry in dying seconds in the home leg of the Voyageurs Cup against Toronto FC and a 5-2 shellacking at BMO Field that saw Toronto hoist the V-Cup for the third time in as many seasons, to a hard-fought 3 points won at Providence Park against Cascadian rivals, the Portland Timbers, and an epic 3-2 come-from-behind win in San Jose during the first of back-to-back fixtures against the Quakes, the Whitecaps may need to start printing a warning on their tickets for people with heart conditions.
The #RobboIn and #RobboOut camps have been out in full force this season, and the last few weeks have been no exception. There were rumblings in August that anything less than hoisting the Voyageurs Cup would seal Carl Robinson’s fate as Vancouver’s manager; however, the Alphonso Davies deal may have bought the gaffer his job until the end of the 2018 season.Heading into Cascadia derby weekend, Robinson was quoted as saying, “There’ll be freshness in the game, as with all derbies. Whenever you play Seattle or Portland there’ll be energy, mistakes, wrong decisions, and it’ll be down to the players as to who will win the game,”* a quote which hasn’t sat well with Caps’ fans.
This past Saturday, Seattle Sounders visited BC Place for one of Caps fans’ favourite weekends of the year: Cascadia derby weekend.For these matches, calendars have usually been cleared for months and the supporters’ pubs are fully booked with day-long reservations.But this year was different.With an abbreviated Cascadia schedule due to the addition of Los Angeles FC to the Western Conference, the Caps found themselves playing Seattle and Portland only twice this season.
These matches should have meant that much more yet the apathy Vancouver has been experiencing all year long continued to grow.The Supporters pubs were eerily quiet and events around match day were wholly uneventful.Fortunately, the lower bowl at BC Place was still sold out and there was a lot at stake: with a draw or a win, Seattle wins the coveted Cascadia Cup.
The first half saw two Seattle goals with Raúl Ruidíaz scoring for the Sounders in the 21st and 42nd minute.The Caps were able to claw back a goal with an incredible header from Kei Kamara but ultimately, the Caps fell short and the final score was 2-1 Seattle.
In terms of “worst case scenario” this was it for two of the three Cascadian teams as the Portland Timbers sent representatives to Vancouver to hand off the Cascadia Cup to the 2018 champions, the Seattle Sounders.
There is still ample opportunity over the next six weeks to make a smash-and-grab run at one of the Western Conference playoff spots but, as Robbo so aptly put it, it’ll be on the players on the pitch to want it enough to bring home as many of the available 18 points as possible.
If you’ve ever been to a match when the Cascadia Cup is on the line, you never forget it.
Long-time Timbers Army members tell stories of the first Cascadia Cup matches early in the A-League/USL era, when supporters of the Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers all agreed to pitch in to buy a trophy to honor whichever Cascadia team had the best regular season record among the three. They can tell you why you should never pick the Cup up by the handles, and about how league and schedule changes have forced supporters from all three clubs to come to agreement on how to handle unbalanced schedules and other hiccups in the past.
In the MLS era, I remember when something like 1500 of us went to Seattle in October 2012 with the chance to win the Cup–and instead got spanked 3-0. I remember when hundreds of us then trekked to Vancouver two weeks later to christen the newly renovated BC Place, and Jack Jewsbury blasted a ball from distance to give us a 1-0 victory and our first Cascadia Cup in the MLS era.
As in years past, if there is ever a Cascadia Cup match where the trophy is on the line, representatives from supporters of the potential winner of the Cup must be in attendance, even if their team isn’t playing. And representatives of those in possession of the Cup must also be in attendance when the Cup is on the line, even if their team isn’t playing. When we had to surrender the Cup in 2011, representatives of the Timbers Army had to drive to Canada to hand it over to either Seattle or Vancouver, depending on the outcome of their match. In 2012, turnabout was fair play, and Seattle had to drive to Canada to hand the trophy over to us.
This year, Portland has had several chances to seal the deal. Vancouver brought the trophy down to a Portland-Seattle game in case we won the game and the Cup (we didn’t); Portland supporters had to go to a Vancouver-Seattle game in case they drew and we won the Cup (we didn’t); and Seattle had to come to Portland for our final match against Vancouver in case we drew or lost, which would have meant Seattle winning the Cup (they didn’t). In the end, all three supporter groups traveled to matches played by two teams they didn’t support, all for naught and all because of the Cascadia Cup. It was standard Cascadia Cup drama.
And it was glorious.
Of course, since it was a Cascadia Cup match, I was already a wreck well before the game. And not only was the Cup on the line: a win would put us into first place in the West and give us a first round bye. With the Sounders playing hapless Colorado, a tie or a loss would almost certainly put us into third or fourth place, with the insult-to-injury of losing the Cup to hated rivals in Seattle, followed by a midweek play-in game on little rest.
Superstitious to the last, I baked the same fanladen treats I’ve been baking since our home game winning streak began in August. I wore the same USL Timbers earrings I wear to every home game. And I was still sure how this script would go. I figured that, as a former Whitecaps player, Darren Mattocks would score the early goal to punish Vancouver and get our hopes up; and that Fredy Montero, recently acquired by the Whitecaps, a long-time former Sounders player and hated rival, would crush our spirits with a late equalizer. I hoped for the best and prepared myself for the worst.
As I expected, we went with the same lineup we’d used against DC United. Both teams looked to be pretty stingy early on, so it wasn’t surprising that the first score came off a set piece. Kendall Waston punished Larrys Mabiala in the 29′ with a beautiful header off a free kick. I groaned, expecting Vancouver to be sensible and pack in the defense.
But then a funny thing happened. The Timbers started flying into the box, and the Whitecaps were unable to respond. Just three minutes after the Waston header, David Guzman took a deep free kick from just past the center circle and Aly Ghazal headed it out the back unnecessarily. This set up a corner kick for Guzman, who sent it to the top left corner of the box to Darlington Nagbe. Whitecaps keeper Stefan Marinovic was barely able to bat away Nagbe’s curling shot; unfortunately for Marinovic, he batted it to the waiting feet of Liam Ridgewell, who stretched out just enough to tap it across the goal and into the net to tie the game:
The rest of the half, the Timbers were on the front foot, as they say, continuing to press. I kept waiting for the boys to falter and suffer from a counterattack but it never really materialized. And then three minutes into the half a beautiful team goal involving Nagbe, Sebastian Blanco, Vytautas Andriuškevičius, and Mattocks put us ahead 2-1 to stay:
Vancouver battled hard in the last few minutes but to no avail, and when the final whistle sounded the unbelievable had become reality: we had won the West and the Cup.
Sebastian Blanco had an excellent game. I know some people grumbled that he took shots that were off the mark, but the truth is that his work rate is incredible, he is starting to team well with others, and those shots he took wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t worked so hard to get the opportunities in the first place.
Darren Mattocks is playing well(!). At the start of the season, I would not have guessed that I’d consider preferring to start Mattocks up top over Fanendo Adi going into the playoffs; but here we are.
Alvas Powell didn’t make any fatal errors. ‘Nuf said.
Off the Pitch
Surprising absolutely nobody, Diego Valeri was the hands down winner of the Supporters Player of the Year award. We are ready to build the statue any time, folks.
Everybody has a story to tell about rivalry games. And last Sunday’s Portland Timbers–Seattle Sounders match-up had it all: disputed calls and non-calls, cards, a penalty kick, a draw that felt like a win (or a draw that felt like a loss, depending on where you were standing in the stadium). But I’m going to leave the match recap to others. This is instead a personal story of Cascadia Cup games, for me and for my daughter.
My daughter (who I call MiniMe online to give her a LITTLE privacy) first started attending Timbers matches when her brothers played club soccer in 2004. Restless and bored, my then 4-year-old girl had to be bribed to stay in the half-empty stands with me on the west side: “If you let mommy watch the first half of this match, we’ll go up to the Fred Meyer bouncy house later, okay?”
Looking back on those early USL days, I would not have predicted that, when the team made the move to MLS in 2011, MiniMe would be the one who most wanted to attend away games, accompanying me to the first MLS Cascadia Cup away match in 2011 in Seattle.
All of eleven years old, MiniMe rode up to Seattle with me on one of the supporter buses. She delighted in the entire affair–the spectacle of it all, the cold and the rain and the resulting “We don’t need no ponchos” songs in the stands, the extremely rude, potty-mouthed cheers that she could only laugh at as they rang throughout the section, Futty Danso’s stunning equalizer. She was hooked.
MiniMe was with me in 2011 when we opened BC Place to much fanfare. She came up with helpful tips to pass on to supporters (“Seat backs in front of you make excellent makeshift percussion instruments.” “Your away day program makes great confetti”). She was with me in Seattle in 2012 when we got our butts handed to us and when stadium security decided to ignore the prearranged security protocol and dump us out right in the midst of ECS faithful (MiniMe was calm and collected; her mother was situationally aware).
She was with me in Vancouver in 2012 when we reclaimed the Cascadia Cup, talking her way into the Railway Club to touch the Cup even though she was CLEARLY well underage (MiniMe to the door man: “Look at me. Who’s going to serve ME?”)
My daughter has accompanied me to every regular season Cascadia Cup match since 2011 except one, and that one was my fault (I was in Spain at the time in 2015). She’s in college now, but she makes a point of coming to each and every one. When she came home for the summer this year, she marked her wall calendar with every Timbers home match, and every Cascadia Cup away match. I confess that I live for those days, when we can still share the joy and the sorrow of the game together.
This past weekend, MiniMe went back up to college at Puget Sound on Friday, then rejoined me one last time for the season at CenturyLink. She saved me a seat while I did supporter stuff before the match, then we stood and chanted and sang together for the boys on the field.
At one point in the game, as often happens in a Cascadia Cup match, we had evened up the score, but I was still terribly nervous. Eventually my voice caught in my throat, and instead of singing the next chant I held my hands in front of my face as the final minutes ticked down, peering through my fingers at the field, terrified that our hated rivals would once again score the go-ahead goal, and holding my breath hoping that we would be able to hang on for the draw.
And then I glanced to my left, and saw that my daughter was doing exactly the same thing.
Some bonds run deep. For my daughter and me, those bonds run straight through Pacific Northwest soccer.
After the final whistle, we waited through the security hold together, dashed down the ramp with the rest of the Timbers Army faithful, and I hugged her goodbye as she sprinted off to catch the late bus back to college in Tacoma.
Recap away, y’all. Talk about Diego Valeri’s amazing season. Talk about the sublime space that Darlington Nagbe creates around him out of nothing. Talk about Roy Miller having his best game in a Timbers jersey. Talk about Jeff Attinella’s stops, or Vytautas Andriuškevičius’s crosses. What I will remember most is my daughter and I, side by side, hoping against hope, peering through our fingers at the boys on the pitch as they stared down our most hated rivals to the north, and endured.
I sure hope we get to do it again together a time or two this fall.
Any game against Vancouver Whitecaps takes on special significance. We have been rivals since long before our MLS days. Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver have songs and chants specifically designed to taunt each other that we sing only during Cascadia Cup matches. We have a supporter-created trophy (that predates our arrivals in MLS) that is awarded to the Cascadia team who wins the most points among us in the regular season. We even have a traditional song sung at the end of every match that has its origins in USL Portland-Vancouver days. The rivalry is real.
At the same time, off the pitch, we know that we have kindred spirits in our Cascadian brethren to the north. We recognize the turmoil and hardship created by changes in our country’s travel policies, changes which have some Canadian supporters unable and/or unwilling to cross the border to attend a match. Some worried about their ability to cross; others, in solidarity with supporters who may not travel, also elected to stay home, some for the first time ever for an MLS Cascadia Cup match.
We know how difficult this decision was, and the Timbers Army wanted to show their support for our rival supporters to the north, painting a front banner with a message of optimism from the Peace Arch at the US-Canada border crossing we both often pass through for matches against each other:
I have typed and deleted five different paragraphs on Nagbe, each with a different take. Unbelievably beautiful touches on the ball. Absolutely one of the nicest humans off the pitch, a role model. Inspirational coming-of-age story, from leaving war-torn Liberia as an infant to finding citizenship and success on the pitch in the U.S. Frustratingly unselfish on the pitch, leading to far fewer goals than you’d expect of a player of his caliber and to questions about whether he will ever reach his true potential.
All of the frustration I feel when he takes the extra pass wide instead of going into the box himself, or when he sends it safely back to the fullback instead of through to his midfield–all of it evaporates in a moment like this. In the 18th minute, David Guzmán gave Nagbe the ball in the middle of the pitch. Nagbe coolly evaded first Matías Laba and then Kendall Waston, working away from them wide to the right, then somehow kept his balance while firing a rocket from beyond the 18 that tagged the underside of the crossbar and found its way home for the first score of the match. The goal uplifted the spirits of the team and the crowd. We all felt the shift in momentum.
And, even more special, Nagbe clearly felt it too. He is so often an unassuming, selfless, NICE guy, that his goal celebration marked something different for Nagbe. More of THIS, please.
We had a lot of changes in the lineup for this one. Fanendo Adi was serving a one game suspension for a tangle up in the match the week before, so he was out. Sebastian Blanco was recovering from a tweak earlier in the week so he was on the bench. Vytautas Andriuškevičius was healthy and back in the lineup, as was returning captain and center back Liam Ridgewell. And JakeGleeson, suffering from a hip flexor injury, was replaced by able backup Jeff Attinella,acquired in the offseason from Real Salt Lake via Minnesota United. (Thanks, by the way, RSL; from Ian Joy to Will Johnson to Nat Borchers, you always send us excellent players.)
But the biggest changes to our look this game were probably Adi’s and Blanco’s replacements, Darren Mattocks and Dairon Asprilla. Mattocks and Asprilla are both speed burners, and provided some blistering pace up front. It’s not necessarily a lineup I would want week after week, but I do appreciate that our depth allows for such strong replacements in the starting XI. And it was particularly sweet to see Mattocks score what would eventually be the game winner against his old squad, in a beautiful team goal involving Guzmán, Nagbe, and Diego Valeri:
Ridgewell may be the captain, but the heart and soul of the team is midfielder Diego Valeri. And when Valeri was stretchered off late in the match we all held our breath. It was a tremendous relief to see him standing in the locker room after the match taking questions from interviewers. Get well soon, Maestro; the world is a brighter place when you’re on the field.
Random Hot Takes
Alvas Powell: I am tired of the “That’s So Powell” show. He is clearly fast and talented. He loves to overlap on the wing and he is usually quite capable of locking down the defense in the right corner. But I am done with his poor decision making. Classic Powell: win a difficult possession battle in the corner, save the day, then pass it directly to the other team. And Christian Bolaños, a veteran midfielder with over 70 appearances for the Costa Rican national team, most definitely had Powell’s number. He caught Powell out of position several times, most notably in the 52nd minute and again in the 60th, and both times Powell fouled him as a result. Costly mistakes, the second of which resulted in the penalty kick that got Vancouver on the board.
Fredy Montero is still very good at soccer. As a Timbers fan I am already predisposed to dislike him, but I can admit that Fredy is very good at what he does. He is a poacher, floating up top, biding his time, almost turning invisible, then seizing his moment. I do not look forward to playing him again…and again, this year.
The game lasts 90 minutes, guys. Once again, we had the game firmly in hand in the first half, but instead of putting it away we limped to the finish. While that may work against a weak Vancouver squad at Providence Park, it most definitely will not be enough for the likes of FC Dallas. I sincerely hope we figure out how to finish out as strong as we start before Saturday.
Next week, we’re on the road in Dallas. See you there!