Sounders FC, Vancouver renew soccer rivalry

Jun 9, 2011

Think of them as the nice cousins who live up North. That’s what KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says of the Vancouver Whitecaps. They’re coming to Qwest Field in Seattle Saturday night to play the Sounders FC in the first Major League Soccer match-up between the two teams.

While the match will renew a longstanding regional soccer rivalry, Art says it’s hardly the same as the fierce rivalry Seattle has with its neighbors to the South – the Portland Timbers.

Seattle-Portland Rivalry More Intense

Art says Vancouver and Seattle don't have the relationship as the soccer fans between Seattle and Portland.

"There's some real contempt, disdain, orneriness between Seattle and Portland and I don't think fans in either city look at Vancouver the same way. They look at Vancouver as the nice cousin up North."

In last month's initial MLS match-up between Seattle and Portland at Qwest Field, Art says there was "genuine angst and anger among the fans." The match ended in a 1-1 draw, as reported by Joshua Mayers of The Seattle Times. Art says Portland, in its expansion season, showed it was of the caliber of the Sounders after three seasons. He says that rivalry is expected to get even more heated as the season wears on.

Seattle-Portland-Vancouver: Rich Soccer History

Seattle, Portland and Vancouver were all part of the North American Soccer League, which started in the mid-70s. And now that Portland and Vancouver are part of the MLS, the quest for the Cascadia Cup has been renewed. The Cascadia Cup is a regional trophy created in 2004 and will be awarded to the best team among the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps this season. You can read more about it on Wikipedia.

Art says the Seattle-Vancouver rivalry is enhanced by the presence of Alan Hinton. He's now a Sounders broadcaster but he had two separate stints in Vancouver – the first as a player in 1978, the second as a manager in 1984, the club’s last season in the North American Soccer League. MLS soccer.com has more on Hinton's storied 1978 season with the Whitecaps.

"He's sort of the salty sage who's been opining all week long about the virtues and the great stories between the rivals then. Alan is the personal centerpiece, but the two fan bases aren't nearly as agitated as one another as Portland and Seattle."

Vancouver Off to a Sputtering Start

Unlike Seattle in its expansion year and Portland this year in its inaugural season in the MLS, the Vancouver Whitecaps are really struggling. They won their first game of the season, but have gone winless in the 13 games since, with a 1-6-7  record. The team recently fired coach Teitur Thordarson and replaced him with director of soccer operations Tom Soehn, who coached D.C. United from 2007-09.

To add insult to injury, the Whitecaps' inaugural MLS season is being overshadowed by the historic season of the Vancouver Canucks, who are playing in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 17 years.

But Art says a lot of Vancouver fans will still travel to Seattle for Saturday's match. Based on the often heated history the Sounders have with Vancouver and Portland, the team set a limit of 500 seats for fans of both teams at Qwest Field - an issue Art and I discussed earlier in the season.

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.