TUKWILA, Wash. — In previous eras, with a young team collected from around the league and the world, the Seattle Sounders leaned on a few veterans of the USL and the region to explain what this whole Cascadia rivalry meant. Those men are now legends — Zach Scott, Brian Schmetzer, Roger Levesque, Kasey Keller. Now, years later, the rivalry is baked in. It’s not something that needs an educator.
“Nico, Ozzie, Stef Frei, Chad Marshall (who has been here a long time) they all get it,” Brian Schmetzer said after the final practice before the game. “It’s become a bit more of a team effort. I think we, over the years, have had certain individuals, you know starting with Kasey, he knew what the rivalry was about, Zach for sure. But the new guys, they’re catching on.”
Will Bruin is familiar with rivalry. The Texas Derby between Dallas and Houston is natural. The two cities vie for leadership identity for a state that considers itself a nation. FCD and the Dynamo try to capture El Capitan. Here, he sees something different.
“This is much more fun. I don’t know if you watched it, the Houston-Dallas game, but if you looked in the stands it was empty. Here the Seattle-Portland game, it’s so much more passionate I feel like. It’s so much more intense,” Bruin said. “You feel it as player when you walk out on the field, even more you know everybody is into it. You play to win for your city. That’s what drives it and that’s what gets every body going.”
Bruin wasn’t on the field for his first game when Seattle hosted the Portland Timbers. It was during his injury. So he witnessed it from above, in the stands.
“Unfortunately the very first game this year, I was out with my dislocated elbow, so I kind of got to witness it from the stands. It was definitely intense. Then I played the game in Portland and it was just as intense. As a player honestly, after all the build up and you get on the field you kind of put it all to the side. It’s just like another game, but when there is that little bit of intensity you get a little more fired up as compared to a different team.”
This game Sunday has a bit, a bit more. It is first versus second. The Cascadia Cup can only be lost, not won. You know this. So do the coaches and the players.
Schmetzer admits to scoreboard watching. “I know they all say they don’t look at the standings. We as coaches say we don’t look at the standings. But we all look at the standings. We know what it’s about. It’s Cascadia Cup. It’s Portland. It’s first place. Everybody is aware of it.”