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 Game, La Pantera 940 AM), we reached out to a collection of former Timbers players who had the honor of playing in these historic rivalry clashes.
Andrew Gregor is a Portland native and Sunset High School standout that began his pro career with the Columbus Crew of MLS in 1998. Gregor went on to becomea four-time USL First Division all-league selection and claimed one USL championship crown, with the Seattle Sounders in 2005. Gregor was the leading scorer 2007 for the USL Timbers and captained the squad from 2007-2008. He retired in 2010 after 11 professional seasons.
As for his unique viewpoint of playing for both sides in these intense rivalry games, Gregor said, " I was hated and loved by both players and fans depending on whom I was playing for at the time. That hate always gave me a little bit of extra motivation to try and win the game at all costs."
Name your most memorable Portland vs. Seattle rivalry moment from playing for either team.
In 2007, we were behind 2-0 with about 15 minutes to go and came back to tie. Bryan Jordan got the first and then I scored a late PK at the Timbers Army North End. They had a great team that year, and for us to fight back late really showed what we were made of that season.
Where do you think this rivalry ranks among other sporting rivalries in the U.S.? In the world?
It's the best rivalry in the MLS, even having only played once this season. I don't think it’s fair to try and compare it to other rivalries in the world yet. Although it has a long history in the lower division, it is nothing compared to some of the major rivalries in Europe or South America in terms of history.
To what extent did you, as a player, dislike your rivals?
Having played for both clubs it was always an exciting experience to play in those games. I knew many of the players very well and although we may be friends, I wanted to beat them on the day. I was hated and loved by both players and fans depending on whom I was playing for at the time. That hate always gave me a little bit of extra motivation to try and win the game at all costs.
Was there a moment when you realized this rivalry surpassed all others in terms of how much it mattered to the fan base?
After a game in Seattle when I was playing for the Sounders, we were walking to the locker room and some of the Timbers Army were just going crazy on us. I thought they were joking at first because I had played for the Timbers the year prior. I quickly realized they were serious and things got a little heated. That was the moment I realized that this rivalry had stepped up another level.
Describe your first Portland vs. Seattle rivalry game.
In 2002, while I was with the Sounders, we played Portland in the preseason and won 4-1. It was quite a rough preseason game and it got a little chippy at times. We then played them in their home opener and won 2-0. Both those games set the tone for the season and both teams knew they were in for a battle each time we played.
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?
In the early days of the rivalry when I played, it was all about the players. The league was made up of regionally based teams and players. The players for the most part were from or had ties to the Northwest. This led to a unique rivalry that had manifested from our youth days, through college, and into the pro ranks. As the fan groups slowly developed, it added to the passion and took it to another level. With the move to MLS the regional aspect has faded due to the lack of Northwest players on either team. This is where the fan groups have stepped up and developed the rivalry to another level. Once the current MLS players create some roots and history in their clubs and this rivalry, I believe it will jump up another level of intensity. I'm very excited to see where this rivalry will go on the domestic stage, and ultimately on the world stage.
What one word would you use to describe the rivalry, and why?
I would say passion best describes the rivalry. On paper this is not a huge league game, third in the west vs. eighth, separated by 14 pts, and one team is undefeated in five and the other is winless in five. With those stats you would say this shouldn't be a huge game. As soon as you see that it's Seattle vs. Portland, all those stats are out the window. The passion and pride of the rivalry takes over, and this becomes the biggest game of the season for both teams and for the MLS.
(David Lieberman and Rob Morse contributed to this article.)