If there’s one thing that makes the Seattle Sounders FC–Portland Timbers rivalry unique among its Major League Soccer counterparts – besides the bitterness, next-level tifos, and fanatical supporters clubs – it’s history. The Sounders–Timbers rivalry predates Major League Soccer. It also predates the birth of every player currently on each roster. In fact, it spans across several leagues dating all the way back to 1975. The Cascadia rivalry outlasted the USL First Division, A-League, Western Soccer League, Western Soccer Alliance, American Professional Soccer League and the North American Soccer League. A look through the lens of this rivalry offers a glimpse of soccer’s resilient journey in the United States throughout the last four decades.
Sunday’s MLS Heineken Rivalry Week II meeting between Seattle and Portland marks the 91st time the cities’ clubs will do battle (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN2). This installment of the rivalry features a Sounders side that, one year removed from a Supporters’ Shield, is fighting for its playoff livelihood. The immersion of transfer window additions Nelson Valdez, Roman Torres and Andreas Ivanschitz, coupled with the potential return of U.S. international Clint Dempsey, could put the squad back on track to MLS Cup contention. Portland is also benefitting from a recent Designated Player signing, as 22-year-old Argentine winger Lucas Melano opened his MLS account with an 86th-minute equalizer in Friday’s draw vs. Houston. Melano has game-breaking speed and will begin to showcase his electric skill-set as he grows accustomed to his new surroundings. With Seattle and Portland trailing Vancouver Whitecaps FC on the Cascadia Cup table by two and three points, respectively, a win for either side would be massive in their pushes for the regional crown.
The Sounders FC–Timbers rivalry transcends Major League Soccer and every league that came before it. The disdain between these cities, clubs, supporters, and players is mutual and it’s palpable, and regardless of where, when, and under which league they play, this rivalry can go toe-to-toe with anything the North American sports landscape has to offer.
In-form Red Bulls host Eastern Conference leading D.C. United in I-95 clash
The I-95 tilt between D.C. United (13-9-5) and New York Red Bulls (11-6-6) on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, FOX Deportes, TSN2) is one of the most storied rivalries in MLS dating back to the league’s inaugural season in 1996 – the Atlantic Cup. In that first year, the two clubs met in the Eastern Conference semifinals in an epic clash that saw D.C. United go on to earn its first MLS Cup championship, and set the stage for an intense rivalry that has lasted over the past two decades. The contention has not died down as the clubs met again in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2014 for the fifth time, where the script was finally flipped with the Red Bulls coming out on top for the first time in its MLS Cup playoff history against United.
The Atlantic Cup is up for grabs in the final match between the two clubs this regular season during MLS Heineken Rivalry Week II, with New York having defeated D.C. 2-0 at Red Bull Arena on March 22 and the two clubs playing to a 2-2 draw on April 11 at RFK Stadium.
The Red Bulls, second place in the Eastern Conference, enter the match as one of the hottest teams in the league, currently riding a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1). The club is being led by last season’s Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has bagged five goals and an assist during that unbeaten run, and leads the team in goals with 11 on the season. The Englishman is among a talented cast of players that have all stepped up during the second half of the season. Sacha Kljestan, of nearby Seton Hall University and a UEFA Champions League veteran with Belgium club Anderlecht, has been a critical force in the midfield, notching four goals and seven assists. In defense, U.S. U-20 defender and Red Bulls Homegrown product Matt Miazga has been indispensable to the team and has quickly made a name for himself as one of the best young defenders in MLS. In 17 games started by Miazga this season, the Red Bulls have only suffered two defeats, posting an 11-2-4 record.
Eastern Conference leading D.C. United will be primed to snap a two-game losing streak in league play against their bitter rivals. They boast one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, U.S. international Bill Hamid. The homegrown keeper leads MLS in goals against average (0.83) and save percentage for keepers that have played at least 1,500 minutes. Teammate Chris Rolfe is having a standout season, leading the team in scoring tying a career-high with nine goals scored and adding four assists. This crucial match atop the Eastern Conference between these two competitors has major implications in the Supporters’ Shield race, and might serve as a preview of what’s to come in the next round of MLS Cup Playoffs.
The MLS Heineken Rivalry Week logo is available HERE.