The Path North: Vancouver Edition

Longtime Timbers Army member Kip Kesgard returns to talk Timbers-Whitecaps

Editor’s Note: Though the Cascadia Cup was already decided last weekend with the Seattle Sounders FC beating Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3-1 in the last MLS game played at Whitecap's temporary stadium Empire Field, the Cascadian rivalries continue anew this week with the Timbers traveling north to play in the newly opened BC Place in downtown Vancouver.

With a Timbers-Whitecaps history that goes back to NASL days, longtime Timbers Army member and Community Blogger Kip Kesgard takes a look at the differences within Portland’s relationship with Vancouver and Seattle, and examines the culture of supporters road trips across the border.

The Cascadia Cup rivalry between the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps has always been feisty to a certain extent, but the amount of venom between the sides varies significantly. While Portland and Seattle fans have routinely tried to outduel and outclass their respective rivals in an ever escalating competition, the competitiveness between Portland and Vancouver has always been different.

Call it passive aggressive politeness, call it welcoming hospitality, call it simply being Canadian, but whatever it is, the relations between the Timbers Army and the Whitecaps supporters group, The Southsiders, have always been more cordial. While the fans in Canada will give opposing fans plenty of grief during the match, they’re as likely to extend an invitation to a pre-match potluck or postgame meeting to talk about the match. The Southsiders have a lot of pride in their city and club and support them without fail, but also revel in being good hosts. Vancouver is far and away one of my favorite travel destinations simply because of how well I’ve been treated up there.

I recall the opening match for the 2006 USL season that saw Portland visit Vancouver to start the year— one off my favorite memories when playing Vancouver. Many of the Timbers Army, myself included, had just traveled to Sunderland, England as guests of their supporters for a special trip, but that didn’t stop many of us from going directly from England to Canada to be there for the Timbers opening night. 2010 was also a special memory to be able to secure the Cascadia Cup in Canada because of a Mamadou Danso second half goal, erasing the memories of previous losses. For my last trip to Canada, my wife, my friend Tim, and I all drove up and back to Vancouver the same day. While we saved money this way, we were all fairly punchy by the time we passed through Centralia.

The treatment of the Timbers on the pitch in Vancouver hasn’t nearly been as hospitable, however. In the 19 matches during the USL era played in Vancouver, the Timbers won only two matches in British Columbia between 2001 and 2010. While the scenery and warm reception from the hosts made things somewhat more palatable, Vancouver has simply been a difficult place for the Timbers to get wins regularly. The tide changes greatly when the match is played in Portland, as the Timbers had a winning record in the United Soccer League era and last month’s 2-1 victory for the MLS Timbers at JELD-WEN Field continues this trend. However, the USL era form has noted exceptions: Portland won in Vancouver in 2010 during the regular season to retain the Cascadia Cup, while the Whitecaps defeated the Timbers in the last two USL playoffs in Portland to knock the Timbers out of the postseason.

When I asked other Timbers fans for their recollections from the Portland-Vancouver rivalry, I received some varied responses:

“I hate them just as much as Seattle since they took us out of the playoffs the last few years!”  -Gilmer Gongora, Timbers Fan

“I always liked the looks the traveling TA would get at Swangard from the soccer moms & dads. And we would be like, ‘Sorry, This is where your Front Office told us to stand.’ But in the end, they have much better fans than FC Xbox. Way better kit too!”  -Brian Dettling, Timbers Fan

“Unfortunately, I think of how we could never seem to win there. However, there were a couple of great chants though: ‘Mounties! Mounties! Give us a wave.”  -Diane Rogers, Timbers Fan

“As much as the Flounders are hated, it actually hurts a bit more to lose to the Whitecaps. They're just so . . . unthreatening.”  -Brendan O’Hanlon, Timbers Fan

The next trip north for this rivalry continues on October 2 (1:30 pm PT, ROOT SPORTS750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940 AM). Needless to say, it should be a truly entertaining evening regardless of the result.