View From The Middle: How the Portland v. Vancouver rivalry is unique
Editor's Note: With the Vancouver Whitecaps arriving in Portland for their first Cascadian match with the Timbers in the MLS era (Saturday, 7pm PT, FOX Soccer; 750 AM The Game; La Pantera 940 AM) , we contacted our colleague Steve Clare from Northwest soccer site Prost Amerika. Based in Seattle, though a keen observer of numerous Cascadian clashes--many including Portland v. Vancouver--Clare examines just how the Timbers v. Whitecaps derby is unique.
So I embark on another trip to Portland but this time, I’ll be sharing the freeway with a few folk more than normal.
This is derby weekend and it is just different. Whitecaps fans are telling me of the immense anticipation of the travel, the very warm welcome already laid out by the Timbers Army, and the camaraderie away travel engenders among their own fanbase. The best part is that this joy and this excitement completely eclipses the lousy season, the 4-0 hammerings, the false start to their life in MLS.
Yes, derby day is special.
I made the trip north once with some Timbers fans to view a game in Vancouver. Despite the potential “double whammy” of living in Seattle and being a journalist; I was allowed to observe, and even encouraged to participate, in their mutual celebrating. The clubs’ shared two years in USL without a Seattle team to concern themselves with has further nuanced a rivalry that was already different to Portland’s with Seattle.
When you added in the factor that both clubs were MLS-bound, there was an additional bond between those fans who knew they may soon be joined by those attracted by glitzy MLS style marketing and all the other changes that can bring.
Talking to fans of both sides in the new era, however, you get the impression that stalwart camaraderie hasn’t changed.
If anything, the perils and tribulations of their opening season in MLS has also brought the two sets of fans closer, almost as if there is a “we’re in this together” feeling or a case of adversity making good bedfellows. Certainly, looking at the internet this week, there is little of the acerbic humour that preceded the Timbers matches with Seattle.
Talk to any older fans in Seattle and they will tell you that Vancouver was their main rivalry in the old days, although that was mostly an on field rivalry as the two frequently found each other in competition for honours.
However in this MLS era for Portland, it is the rivalry with Seattle that carries that “edge” whereas the Vancouver Whitecaps have become close to “brothers in expansion.”
This is no bad thing. Nor is it unusual. Ask any Londoner, and he or she will tell you that any one London club has a different strain of rivalry with another. In Germany and Italy, it isn’t just rivalries that carry semi-official recognition. Groups of fans have friendships with each other. Support for a fan of the other side in need is one of the manifestations.
In Cascadia, there is no reason why each of the three pairings of rivalries should not develop differently too. It takes twice as much effort to make the trip to Portland from Vancouver, so the bonding in the process is thickened, as is the respect from the hosts for those who travel.
So yes, this is a derby. But by once more blazing their own trail and shaping it to their own needs, it is a very Cascadian occasion.