Monday, March 18, 2013

Sounders vs. Timbers - Round One 2013

View from stadium ramp pre-match
I attended the annual "derby" between the Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers FC this past weekend in Seattle. For those of you not in the know, the two teams are in the Major League Soccer league and play each other anywhere from 1-3 times a year. In 2013 it's three times - two in Seattle, one in Portland. Last year it was the reverse. This time, 40,000 people attended inside Century Link Field in downtown Seattle.

While the Sounders own an edge in wins and losses over the decades that the teams have been playing each other in different incarnations, the animosity by Portland fans towards Seattle is clearly at a higher level that that of Seattle fans towards Portland. And indeed, this was evident last weekend by the behavior of the Timbers Army, the hard core support group for the Portland team. But more on that later.

Meanwhile, the game ended as a 1-1 tie. Seattle put in a spectacular goal in the first half, and then missed on at least two point blank shots on goal in the second half...leaving at least one goal unscored that could easily have been.

Portland had opportunities early, but missed. "stopage time," they narrowly snuck one into the Seattle goal to pull even.
Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers - March 16, 2013 in Seattle

Two observations about all that:

1) Ties ain't fun, but they add up. Many people hate that matches in soccer can end in a tie. Yes, it's a bit unsatisfying for many, including me. But, the way MLS and virtually every soccer league in the world measures how teams are doing is on "points" rather than wins and losses directly. So, for example, a team gets three points in the standings for a win, one point for a tie and zero for a loss. The team with the most points at the end of the season wins the division. Teams below them are placed in order based on how many points they've earned. SO...a tie is not as odious as it seems on the surface. Both teams get a point. The season is long and even those add up.

2) "Prevent" play only prevents you from winning. Often in American football (NFL, college), when a team has a lead late in a game it suddenly stops being aggressive, goes very conservative on offense and plays "prevent" defense. This is meant to try and kill clock and preserve the win. However, equally as often, the team that is behind on the scoreboard tries extra hard and...because the other team is letting them...they can manufacture opportunities to score TDs or field goals. Well, the same is true in soccer. Teams with a lead often go conservative near the end to salt away the clock and get the win. This is what the Sounders did in the last 10 minutes or so of the match last weekend. Their offense basically stopped and their defense sagged into their own end...enabling Portland to pour it on and get shots on goal. And they put one in. So, give it to Portland for scoring, but equally so...shame on the Sounders for letting it happen.

Finally, back to the fan support groups - particularly Portland's. OK, right up front I will say that the Timbers Army showed up motivated and loud. Give them credit for that. Yes Portland, you have a vocal and dedicated core fan group. We believe that you love your team. And we certainly can tell you don't like Seattle. Great. also have an extremely lewd, rude and embarrassing fan supporter group. If the purpose of the Timbers Army is to showcase how moronic Portland fans are, then mission accomplished. I can only deduce that we were witnessing the drunken and juvenile spasms of a MASSIVE little brother complex felt by Portland fans about anything Seattle. Of course, it's ironic that the Timbers' sponsor is Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. That means every player and fan wearing a Timbers jersey is walking around supporting a Seattle company. Also ironic is that the beloved urban combat kilts I see many Timbers fans wearing are, you guessed it, produced by Seattle-based Utilikilts.

Anyway, exhibit A is the ongoing chant they executed quite well during the match that featured calling Seattle "shit" and baiting Seattle fans with the accusation that they, the Timbers Army, "don't hear a fucking thing." Because they were in unison and chanted this stuff over and over again many times, the stadium was treated to that quite clearly. Classy. Ladies and gentlemen...Portland.

Exhibit B is this picture. See how many Portland fans you can find giving the middle finger to the Seattle crowd. My favorite? The short guy who looks like a leprechaun giving the bird with authority.

Timbers Army in Seattle - March 16, 2013

Now, I'm not saying that a fan base has to be nice to their rivals, but come on people. Really? Chanting the F-word, flipping the bird most of the game and generally being lewd? What comes across is that you actually hate Seattle far, far more than you care one iota about your team. This does not reflect well on your group or your city. Seriously, it doesn't. You look like a-holes.

One last thing on Portland fans. As loud and obnoxious as they are when they're safe in their own supporter area, they're very tame out on the concourse when getting beers or food. And, they arrive and depart as a group directly to/from their buses. Both these behaviors are fear based. Sure, they've got the big beards, utilikilts and all the Timbers garb you'd expect from Portland fans. And sure, they're going to rant profane cheers and flip off the crowd from their seats. But, once outside of their cheering section, all of a sudden...silence and security guards. Why? Despite their pride in Portland, they know that in Seattle they're in "the big city" and they fear what they might actually run into.

So that sounds pretty harsh towards the Timbers Army, it's supposed to. I was not impressed.

As for the various Seattle supporter groups. I am 100% sure there is boorish and lewd behavior there too, and it's equally as bad. But, as a whole...Seattle fans do not openly and uniformly have a reputation as "a-hole." And, they don't hate Portland, the city. Most people I know in Seattle (including Sounders fans) really like Portland.

For example, you can read about my foray down to Portland last season to catch a Seattle v Portland match HERE. I had a great time.

There are two more games in this rivalry this season - one more in Seattle in August and the last in Portland in October. I'm going to try to make both those matches and - if so - will report what I see!

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