PORTLAND, OR - JULY 10: Fredy Montero #17 and Erik Friberg #8 of the Seattle Sounders celebrate a goal against diving golakeeper Troy Perkins #1 and Eric Brunner #5 of the Portland Timbers on July 2, 2011 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
"Savor this moment, you will remember it the rest of your life"
There has been, and will be, more significant wins, in a global sense, in this team's history. We have seen 2 U.S. Open Cups lifted, and we will see Supporters Shields and MLS Cups lifted in the future. The Sounders winning a competitive match in Mexico in CCL play would very well have more bigger-picture significance than yesterday's 3-2 win in a mid-season League match. But none of this properly appreciates the importance of a rivalry, and the emotional impact of a proper derby day.
With 500+ of my fellow Supporters I made the journey by bus to Portscum to represent the Emerald City in the stands of Jeld-Wen as the Sounders took on the Timbers in the road leg of their heated rivalry in the first year of the MLS Cascadia Derby era.
Build a Bonfire
Exactly one month ago today, I was troubled by the course the Sounders 2011 campaign had taken. While the club was hardly in crisis, they seemed destined to spend the season struggling to keep their heads above the middling waters of MLS-brand parity. There were plenty of talking points ranging from valid explanations to poor excuses as to why the club was largely being perceived as underachieving; and even those who suggested that they weren't underachieving at all.
Injuries were the most commonly offered explanation, and while it stood as a perfectly valid point at one time it was gradually fading into the realm of stale excuse. There were certainly other issues, such as the lack of productivity of our young and newly minted DP; for which the rationalizations were certainly getting tired. Questions were being asked of the manager, who seemed to be out of ideas at times. At the end of it all was a season which was pointed in a direction well south of the excellence that looked promising before it all started.
But what stung the most was that in the respective home legs of our two Cascadia rivals, we had only managed 2 draws. It is one thing to be average when greatness is on the table; it is another to do so while failing to beat your rivals at home. And one month ago today I was left to look for answers as to why we couldn't beat a very poor Whitecraps team.
And such that it was that The Sounders suddenly found a vein of form, taking advantage of a schedule which offered below-average and compromised sides before gutting out a desultory draw last week in LA. The Sounders were suddenly on a surge up the table and seemingly re-invigorated.
It is probably then pretty stupid to say that this would be undone by the failure to get a result in Portland, but the reality is that the Sounders were the on-form team in MLS, while the Timbers were the off-form team; and there was unfinished business from that night in May at Qwest when the Sounders were in the midst of a near-crippling inury crisis.
Put the Timbers at the top
It was asked before the Vancouver match, "what is best in life?" I think I have a pretty good answer to that question.
There isn't much getting around the fact that Portland is THE rival in Cascadia. The well-rooted enmity is palpable between the supporter bases. But this was a day more than two years in the making; from the moment the MLS franchise in Portland and Vancouver were announced just after the Sounders kicked off their own MLS era.
And this was a day that was months in the planning. The debate over traveling supporter allocations in the last offseason did a grave disservice to the groups that facilitate and organize these road trips. It is an all-volunteer, truly organic process; and this extends to other efforts such as the tifo displays which have become a enthusiastically discussed backdrop to this first year of MLS Cascadia matches.
The busses left early in the morning for a planned arrival 2 hours before the start of the match, and it had been a near-sleepless night for many on board, the buildup to this day having reached a shrill crescendo despite the early hour.
What started so full of anticipation would end with many of those who were there to witness it certainly wondering if it could ever get any better.
Burn the f*cking lot
It is one thing to demolish a foe, to have the entire match essentially turn into a 90-minute celebration of dominance. It is quite another to find yourself quite up against it in a hostile environment, with only your mates there to have your back. But then to overcome that and smell the tears of your opponents is beyond words. You all know what happened: the Sounders twice overcame 1-goal deficits to eventually beat their fiercest rivals 3-2. Honestly, unless you were There, i have to say you don't know what really Happened.
I wish I could put it into words, but I can't. There were tears, of joy, and exhaustion. I saw people completely spent from the experience. It was the sweetest feeling you could hope to imagine, and it was Ours. An elation accompanied by an emotional collapse akin to a runner after a marathon. You can only experience it, and to do so makes life that much richer...
So I am not here to talk about tactics or standings. The Sounders find themselves 4th on PPM, sniffing the top of the table; but that isn't even what matters today. What matters is Sounders 3, scum 2...