Cascadia Q&A: Nick Nicolas

Ex-Timbers player never played match, but remembers rivalry

Nick Nicolas, NASL, 1975

Photo Credit: 
Portland Timbers

With the Portland Timbers hosting the Seattle Sounders for the first home match in their MLS history on Sunday (1:00pm PT, ESPN, 750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940 AM), we reached out to a collection of former Timbers players who had the honor of playing in these historic rivalry clashes.

Today we visit with the historically uniquely positioned Nick Nicolas. While a member of the Portland NASL squad circa 1975-76, the Canadian defender never actually played in a match with the Timbers. That said, he was witness to all of the moments of the inaugural season and was well aware of the Portland-Seattle rivalry. When asked to describe the rivalry in one word, Nicholas responded, "Deafening." Nicholas now serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Peninsula Visa & Passport Service.

Name your most memorable Portland vs. Seattle rivalry moment.
My first memory was seeing 8,000 people show up in the pouring driving rain for the very first-ever NASL soccer match in Portland held against Seattle. I couldn't believe that those fans hated Seattle so much that they would stand in the rain for two hours. 

Where do you think this rivalry ranks among other sporting rivalries in the U.S.?  In the world?
In the terms of soccer throughout the world this is a big as a cross-town rival in the same city, a Local Derby or a Super Classico.

To what extent did you, as a player, dislike your rivals?  
I had close friends from school on that [Seattle] team and every time we played them I wouldn't call or talk with them from the week before we played them to the week after. 

Was there a moment when you realized this rivalry surpassed all others in terms of how much it mattered to the fan base?
It was that first game of the '75 season. Fans showed up in the pouring driving rain hoping that an expansion team that they had never ever seen play, didn't know anything about any of the players and hoping we would beat the famous Seattle Sounders. 

Describe your first Portland vs. Seattle rivalry game.  
It was the very first game ever between for both teams -- 90 minutes of cold pouring rain and one of the toughest nights to play soccer on. The field was saturated by rain and we were soaked to the bone but we battled for that full 90 minutes and lost 1-0. But that game told us everything about that team. From that night on we knew we were good and that this was a start to a very special season. 

Do you think the rivalry has increased in intensity since your playing days, or does it maintain the same level of passion that it did in the past? Where does the rivalry go from here?
There has never been a letdown in the intensity of this rivalry. It didn't matter if the team was in first or last place. This game was always on the level of a championship game. The rivalry will become more intense as Portland, the upstart team in its first season, shows that they can mobilize their fan base to the highest level. The Timbers Army will far surpass any supporters group in the MLS. 

What one word would you use to describe the rivalry, and why?  
Deafening. In every way this match is deafening in sound, in pressure on the players and on the front office of each team. 

(David Lieberman and Rob Morse contributed to this article.)