There might not be a single person who better understands the Seattle Sounders-Portland Timbers rivalry than Brian Schmetzer. The current Sounders assistant coach got his introduction to it as a fan of the NASL Sounders, got a taste of it first-hand when he signed his first pro contract with that team in 1980 and has been a near constant fixture throughout all the name and league changes.
So, it makes sense that when a new player needs a little education on what this rivalry means, Schmetzer is one of the people who makes sure they know.
"He let me know how he feels about them," Sounders defender Marc Burch said. "Any time we're shown highlights of other teams we like to see them scoring on Portland. No matter what it is he likes to dog on Portland a little bit. It helps you understand where he's coming from and where this team has been the last four years and where we're headed in this rivalry."
Where this rivalry is heading is someplace special, at least when it comes to its place in the Pacific Northwest sporting landscape. Today's game will be played in front of more than 67,000 people. It will be the largest crowd to ever see a professional sporting event between two teams from this region.
That is especially satisfying for Schmetzer, who has teams and leagues born and die but the rivalry live on. Many of the games between these teams were played before crowds that are barely a fraction of this one.
"It’s good for soccer in this country," Schmetzer said. "They must be thrilled that we can draw this for two teams. It’s good for our club. It’s good for our guys to not only feel the excitement of a big crowd, but the pressure. What a learning experience for some of these guys. There’s going to be some pressur there."
The atmosphere is sure to be electric, fueled even more by the thousands of Timbers fans that will be both in their allocated section and sprinkled throughout the rest of the stadium. This is bound to be something special. Win, lose or draw, Schmetzer will surely have an even easier time explaining the importance of this game to future Sounders.