As a Sounder stuck in New Jersey, I've had a difficult time trying to be a fan. I have kept my neighbors up at night (due to time difference) doing the Boom...Boom...Clap! alone in my apartment. I’ve had friends ask why I have such an annoying “Xbox shirt.” And I have verbally assaulted my wifi router (and MLS.com) as I tried to watch jerky pirated streams when games are both blacked out online and not covered on local TV channels. It’s been difficult for me, my wife, my dog, and sometimes my co-workers who can’t relate to staying up till 1am to watch a pirated stream of your team losing.
As a result of these difficult circumstances - living in Jersey can be trying for anyone, but particularly for the SSFC faithful - I have had to resort to finding “substitute favorite teams” to watch on the off nights. This season, I’ve selected some obvious choices. I like Montreal (aside from the fact that the beat us), because they have overhauled their team and are trying a new model in the MLS. In the time I’ve watched the league, I can’t remember a team attempt this “Italian style” before, and though it isn’t entertaining in terms of goals, it is fun to see the league diversifying. I also love to watch Chivas, not so much for their performances, but because Chelis is a spectacle. But, more than any anything, I find myself rooting for the other Cascadia teams.
I know that sounds like treason. In fact, a lot of the time I find myself feeling guilty when I say things like “Good for you Vancouver, that was an entertaining game.” Or even worse, “It was fun to watch the Timbers dismantle Sporting Kansas City.” I have had to do some emotional judo to rationalize this positive disposition to my rivals, but the best that I can come up with is that it is actually fun to see my rivals succeed...to a certain extent.
First, there is the fact that Portland is a very compelling story. They had the hometown coach who couldn’t cut it, they - emotionally- released him, and now they’ve brought in a new young coach who is employing a new style for the club - “Porterball.” If I were an objective observer, that would be entertaining. But I am not an objective observer. I want the Sounders to crush the Timbers mercilessly on every meeting. I want to beat them 4 - 0 every game. I want Portland to be embarrassed every time leave the field after Sounders games. But I still want Portland to do well. I want them to do well so that we can beat them by playing our very best.
Second, the Seattle-Portland rivalry is already epic, but how much more so when BOTH teams have respect in the league. In the past, Portland’s matches with the Sounders have been like playoff games for them, and something entirely different for us. We go in expecting to win because we are by far the better team. Anything but a win required some sort of explanation, and always entailed a lot of shame.
I am looking forward to the remainder of this season’s Cascadia rivalries because, for the first time in MLS, I can respect what our rivals are doing. I am looking forward to it more than ever because when we beat our rivals, it will be more than keeping the rabble in their place: it will be an actual victory over a legitimate side. So from the Least Coast, I can (proudly) encourage the Timbers to keep beating the teams closer to where I live, because my Sounders are waiting when you go back home to the West.