The rivalry between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders is one of the most intense and historic in American soccer; starting in the days of the ill-fated North American Soccer League, returning to life in the A-League and USL, and carrying on today in Major League Soccer. On Wednesday evening, a new chapter in that rivalry will play out as the two clubs’ new USL sides, Portland Timbers 2 and Seattle Sounders 2, face off in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the first time.
Seattle Sounders 2 host Portland Timbers 2 at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, WA on Wednesday, May 27th at 4:00 p.m. ET.
In the hearts of Timbers and Sounders fans, the Cup holds a special place. Since the teams’ USL era, the Timbers and Sounders have met in the U.S.’s oldest competition five times. Although the Timbers struck first, winning the 2005 meeting between the two teams, the Sounders would go on to win the next four in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2014. The Sounders would go on to win the U.S. Open Cup in 2009, 2010, and 2014, as well as once more in 2011 when they did not face the Timbers.
The Timbers' and Sounders’ first teams will face off in the fourth round of the Open Cup in June, adding yet another layer to the clashes between the two clubs at every level. The Seattle Sounders will host the Portland Timbers at Starfire on Tuesday, June 16th at 10:30 p.m. ET.
The intensity of the matches between the two sides has always been evident in the play on the pitch. Few know the feeling of those early cup matches better than Andrew Gregor, one of the few players to have suited up for both clubs and one of even fewer to have played an Open Cup match for both.
“In a cup format, it is a win or go home sort of scenario,” says Gregor. "Usually you don’t have those sort of scenarios until playoffs. And so, earlier in the season, in the middle of the season, you are in this win or go home scenario in the cup, which brings an extra intensity; not to mention the standard rivalry that you have between Sounders and Timbers, so it makes for a very, very exciting game."
Gregor, seen here playing for the then Division II Timbers, completed multiple stints with the Timbers in 2004 and 2007-08 as well as the Seattle Sounders in 1999-2000, 2001-02, and 2005-06.
With neither team willing to give an inch in their Cascadia derby matches, it should perhaps come as no surprise that in the five U.S. Open Cup matches between the Timbers and Sounders there have been red cards in four of them.
For Gregor, the possibility of a red card being shown is part and parcel of Open Cup matches. "I think tensions are going to fly either way, but there is that sort of thought of ‘you are not going to be a part of this competition any more if you don’t win.’"
Current Timbers first team assistant coach Cameron Knowles was red carded in the 2007 match between the two sides. Timbers’ starting midfielder Diego Chara was the most recent player to see red, getting sent off in the 2014 edition of the match up.
Now an assistant coach with Timbers 2, Gregor is helping head coach Jay Vidovich prepare his side for Wednesday’s match. It will not be the first time that T2 and S2 have faced off; the two sides have already met twice in their maiden USL campaigns with S2 winning a narrow 2-1 victory at home in April, then coming to Portland this past Saturday and beating T2 2-0 on the road.
Saturday’s game in particular was a contentious one, with a trio of early yellow cards to T2 failing to keep the hotly contested match under control. As tempers flared after the match, T2 defender Harrison Delbridge was shown a red card of his own for dissent, paving the way for an intense Open Cup reunion.
Looking forward to Wednesday, Gregor talked about T2’s approach to the upcoming match. “You are in a knockout competition; you do whatever you can to win that game. What matters is that we win that game and move on. That is kind of the unique aspect of the knockout competition side of it."
For both T2 and S2, the squads on hand are full of players with potential, being developed as possible future players for their respective first teams. Performances trump points for T2 in league play, according to Gregor, but not in a knockout match like this one.
Finding the balance between points and performance is less of a concern in the Open Cup. "In the knockout competition anything goes. You just want to win and move on,” Gregor says.To anyone watching the matches between T2 and S2, it is clear that the rivalry between the two franchises is already extending down to the USL sides and both teams will certainly want to move on.
Ever wondered what a day in the life of a U.S. Women’s National Team player is like? We followed WNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to get an inside look at a day inside WNT training camp, a day that included a weight session and on-field practice.
After a grabbing a quick coffee, the busy day starts early for Harris and the WNT, as they are headed to a weight lifting, the first of two trainings sessions that day.
“The bus ride is always total shenanigans with the people I sit around with. Usually that group is Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger. It’s just fun and good vibes heading into our workout.”
First stop of the day: weightlifting. The WNT usually spends about 90 minutes at the gym, and each player has a specialized workout sheet that is tailored to their needs.
“At lifting I usually spend time on my shoulders and continue to strengthen my back; things I need as goalkeeper. Every day I hit the ground, so I have to make sure my arms are strong. Shoulder strength and shoulder stability are key to make sure my arms are moving well and to prevent any injuries.”
As the team exits the gym, several fans await them by the bus and most players, including Harris, stop to sign a few autographs and pose for a few selfies.
“It’s always just really cool to stop and have a chat with the younger generation after or before training sessions. They’re just awesome.”
“Our van leaves the hotel about 45 minutes before the field players whenever we go to the training. I always have a pre-training and pre-game routine of taping my fingers and hands. It’s a personal preference and to be honest, I’ve always done it. Being at training earlier helps us get some good stretching in, stay focused and it allows us to nail down techniques and work individually and collectively as a small group before we jump in with everyone else.”
For afternoon training, Harris, along with Alyssa Naeher and Jane Campbell, as well as goalkeeper coach Graeme Abel, all pile into a team van and head to training earlier than the field players to spend some time working on their technique and specific areas before the rest of the team arrives.
“Alyssa and I have very good communication and no one has a better view or can critique one another better than each other. If we see something we tell each other and help each other out.”
After training, the players all cool down, chat with each other, hydrate and reflect on the session they just completed.
“We tend to immediately grab our protein shakes. We talk about the day, what we saw on the field, what we can fix, what wasn’t good, what was good and we just overall critique the game in every way we can to become better.”
“Once we’re back in the hotel, it’s all about treatment. Like true professionals, we must take care of our bodies and be responsible to get the treatment we need. Our bodies take a beating from all the impact at training so we take care of it to do it all over again the day after.”