As with most rivalries, there isn’t one clear answer as to when the emotions in this one began to run hot.
In fact, very few, if any, quite understand the decades-long tension and the reasons why one’s team is better than another.
It’s simply known that a rivalry exists and that winning, and beating the other team, is the only real answer.
With the case of the match Sunday between the Sounders and Portland Timbers, beating turned literal as players swung punches and aggressively shoved bodies after the final whistle blew with the scoreboard in favor of Portland, 2-1. When one fight settled, another would break out close by, until separately, and slowly, the teams left for their respective locker rooms.
“Everything is magnified under this lens,” said Sounders fan Mike Warnemuende. “So, wherever the games are, whatever the action is or whoever the players are, everything is sharper, everything is more contrast, everything is just more.”
Throughout the game, fans shouted obscenity-filled taunts across CenturyLink Field as players angrily pushed and shoved one another on the pitch in the 106th meeting between the teams.
“There is still some fire in this rivalry and it got stoked to a higher level tonight,” said Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer.
With Portland’s victory, the overall series, which started in 1975, is now 52-40-14, with Seattle holding the upper hand. In those 44 years, the teams have played through five competitive leagues, starting with the North American Soccer League and presently in Major League Soccer.
Soccer is the only professional-level sport the two cities share and thus makes every meeting between the teams a highly anticipated and energetic game to watch.
“I’ve been a part of all the rivalry games and it’s just, I hate the Timbers,” said Sounders season-ticket holder Clare Megathlin. “Just no matter who plays them, I’m always rooting for whoever is playing against them. I don’t know how to explain it. They just bring out the hatred. I feel like they’re kind of like our little brother who you never want to lose to.”
Despite having a home-field advantage, and dressing the stands in lime green, the Sounders did their part to start the evening’s tension with the debut of the franchise’s tifos, one read “Ambition doesn’t grow on trees.”
“We want to leave here beating Seattle more than anybody,” said Michael Ring, who was wearing matching Timbers jerseys with his brother Joseph. “That (tifo) was bad. That was better than years past, but it was still horrible.”
While cornered off to a small seating section in the northwest corner of the stadium, the Timbers fans made their presence known. Bringing their own tifo and loud chants, to which some said they could hear over the Sounders fans on local broadcasts.
It was this small cluster of Timbers fans that remained in the stadium long after Sounders fans had exited to sing final chants of celebration.
Whether which shade of green one was wearing on Sunday nor which team one was rooting for, the one thing fans agreed on was while the rivalry might cause anger and frustration, the passion and enthusiasm it brings to the sport of soccer and to the Pacific Northwest is much greater.
“I think rivalries are what make leagues awesome because you need to have those games that you don’t want to lose no matter what,” Megathlin said. “Even though I hate the Timbers, I would hate to not have this rivalry. It brings passion and excitement to the games that aren’t always there.”
Timbers and Sounders will meet again this season in Portland on Aug. 23.