Five Moments in Portland-Seattle Cascadia History: Billboard in Seattle's Front Yard
Editor's Note: With the Portland Timbers hosting the Seattle Sounders at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday in a Cascadia Cup clash (Presented by PGE; 2:00pm PT, ESPN, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940), we're taking a look throughout the week at some of the memorable moments that have occured over the near 40-year history of the Portland-Seattle soccer rivalry.
Moment #2: Timbers plant the flag in Seattle's front yard to stoke MLS rivalry
It was September 2010. The Timbers last season in the second division was just coming to an end with the leap to MLS in 2011 on the horizon.
The MLS Expansion Draft hadn’t happened yet. There were no new player announcements for the squad. The iconic primary green and Rose City Red kits hadn’t even hit the store shelves.
But there was still a rivalry to talk about. Steeped in decades of history, the Portland Timbers had their sights set again on their age old nemesis: The Seattle Sounders FC.
Seattle had already made their MLS debut having left the second division USL after their 2008 season. With only had two hard fought U.S. Open Cup games between the two teams over the course of 2009 and 2010, fans in the Pacific Northwest were eager to get the competition underway.
With Portland still looking to form its inagural squad, the team decided to launch a grenade right into the heart of Sounders country. Timbers owner and president Merritt Paulson and chief operating officer Mike Golub had a plan to stir things up.
“We knew that the rivalry was going to be taken to a new height with us joining the Sounders in MLS,” explained Golub.
“We knew that our respective supporters have a lot of fun with each other and we thought that we’d have a little fun with their front office by planting a flag, if you will, on their home turf.”
That flag was a massive billboard placed right in the shadow of then-Qwest Field now CenturyLink Field and within full view of Seattle commuters coming and going on the I-5 into downtown.
The message: Portland, Oregon. Soccer City USA 2011.
In other words: We’re coming for you.
The response was swift. Timbers Army supporters loved it. Seattle fans hated it. The media took notice that this was going to be a competition with some sly bite.
The Oregonian called it “audacious." The Seattle PI took notice, “Apparently, Seattle has some competition for the self-proclaimed best soccer city in America.” National soccer writer Brian Straus summed it up succinctly, saying that it was “a huge green sign that soccer in the United States will never be the same.”
“It was a way to announce our arrival, have some fun, get fans talking and plant the seeds for what was to follow,” said Golub.
And the decision of placement was no accident either.
“We wanted it to be as close to Qwest as possible,” he added.
While the billboard was a daring way to remind everyone just how deep the roots of the rivalry ran, it was also something borne out of an area of the country that has a unique and deep understanding of the game of soccer. With Sunday's match presenting a new chapter, Golub believes the Cascadia rivalry and what it means, matters greatly.
“It’s steeped in history in a part of the world that loves the game,” believes Golub.
Moreover, he added, “It’s two cities that have a longstanding love/hate relationship.”