The annual meeting of the city's two Division I programs has become something of a Seattle soccer holiday, an occasion to celebrate what makes the sport in this region so unique.
The men’s soccer rivalry between the University of Washington Huskies and Seattle U Redhawks is less about enmity than mutual respect.
For 90-some minutes on Sunday evening at Husky Soccer Stadium, sure, UW and SU will go at it, studs up. Neither side has gotten off to an ideal start, and both teams could use a momentum-boosting win heading into conference play.
But for the rest of this season and even beyond it, both programs realize what’s good for one is beneficial to the other.
Seattle’s pair of Division I programs have taken to coordinating nonconference schedules. Last Friday, SU hosted the College of Charleston and UW played Davidson. On Sunday, they flipped. The weekend before that, both squads visited New England to take on Harvard and Dartmouth, taking the exact same flight back to the Pacific Northwest.
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“We’re smart enough to help each other,” Redhawks coach Pete Fewing said. “They used to think, ‘well, we’ll go and beat Seattle U and we’ll try to get a result against Washington.’ Now, they’re thinking they’ll at least get an RPI bump out of it.”
Both programs have benefitted from a bumper crop of local talent. Under coach Jamie Clark, UW has established itself as an annual contender in the Pac-12. Fewing’s Redhawks reached the top 10 in the polls for the first time in school history last season en route to a Sweet 16 berth.
Their annual meeting has become something of a Seattle soccer holiday, an occasion to celebrate what makes the sport in this region so unique. On Sunday, they’ll play for a rivalry trophy for the first time ever, the Washington Athletic Club/101 Club Cup.
Ties are so intertwined that Fewing, a former Husky, says he still has his UW letterman jacket in his closet.
“It will be a very intense game, a very fired-up game,” Fewing said. “There will be emotion to it. But there’s a bond and a mutual respect between both teams.”
A case could be made for the Redhawks as favorites for one of the few times in series history. SU defeated UW last season on its home field, and that NCAA Tournament run included a program-defining takedown of national powerhouse UCLA.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Fewing said about his team’s unlikely Goliath status. “I get why you would. But I look at the overall record, and I think UW might have an advantage. … The gap might be a little closer, but they’re still a measuring stick for us.”
Either the Redhawks or Huskies have represented the area in the NCAA Round of 16 for three straight seasons now. Prior to SU’s run, UW made it that far in 2014 and the quarterfinals the year prior while featuring current Sounders Cristian Roldan and Darwin Jones.
“Cristian and Darwin are, in college soccer, as high-end as it gets,” Clark said. “We don’t have anybody quite as high end right now as those two guys. But we have a deeper group than we’ve ever had.”
For UW, keep a close eye on Henry Wingo, a Sounders academy product, and Kyle Coffee, a redshirt sophomore forward. True freshman Handwalla Bwana, who suited up for S2 earlier this year, tallied a goal and two assists in the overtime win over Davidson last weekend.
The Redhawks attack is again headlined by David Olsen, Auburn’s own first-team All-American. Senior Kyle Bjornethun is the defensive bedrock and Alex Roldan – Cristian’s younger brother – teams with Cam Rohani in midfield.
For 90 minutes, plus the possibility of extra time, they’ll all go at it.
Then the Huskies and Redhawks will retreat to their respective corners, head into conference play and continue the collective work of lifting this city’s collegiate soccer scene to as high-profile a level as it can get.