Best of enemies, no ifs, some butts

Clash of heads not out of the question as Swangard welcomes Seattle

Marc Weber

Steve Kindel remembers his welcome-to-the-rivalry moment.

Almost a decade ago, the Vancouver Whitecaps -- then the 86ers -- were down in Seattle, taking on the Sounders in the second leg of their playoff series.

"It was a really tight game and Bernie James head-butted [Dominic] Mobilio in the box," recalled Kindel. "We got the PK and scored, which was the insurance marker in the series and we end up winning.

"We come around the corner [to the locker rooms] and sure enough Bernie's waiting in the hallway, on his own, ready to take on everyone.

"He was a tough customer and I think I was 20 at the time and Fredo [Alfredo Valente] was 18. Even eight of us weren't willing to take him on at once, but we had some older guys like Steve Mac [Steve MacDonald] ready to discuss the issue.

"It was my first real taste of the rivalry. You could tell some of these guys had butted heads for seven or eight years and that's what leads to the bitterness."

Now longtime Whitecaps Kindel, Valente, Jeff Clarke and Jason Jordan are the guys who have built up that collection of contempt for their Pacific Northwest neighbours.

Not surprising since tonight's game at Swangard Stadium is the 81st meeting between the two clubs -- not counting the NASL days -- and that they met in the playoffs almost every year through 2004.

To put that game total into perspective, the second-most frequent opponent for Vancouver since coming into the league in 1994 is Montreal at 35 games.

This could also be the last meeting in Burnaby for a while. The other two clashes this season are in Seattle, and the Sounders are moving on up to Major League Soccer next season.

That's going to make it tougher for the Caps' veterans to pass their disdain on to the next generation, but it won't be hard to get up for this one.

Seattle is the defending USL-1 champion, which adds intrigue. Plus, Vancouver has an unpleasant overnight trip to Portland for a Timbers' tilt on Saturday and they'll be keen to put points in their pocket to ease the travel.

"Yes, I have [heard about the rivalry], but we don't focus so much on that," said head coach Teitur Thordarson. "I was very impressed when we played them in the preseason [a 2-1 win] and I expect a difficult game."

Seattle also has the rare distinction of claiming superiority over Vancouver, piling up a 42-24-14 mark over the years. They are even above .500 at Swangard.

Likely, though, this send off is more 'see you around' than 'farewell' and the Whitecaps will yet have chances to even the score and grow new grudges.

They could meet here in the playoffs, and they could well meet in MLS as soon as 2011.

"It's been a long rivalry," said Valente. "It's almost done for now, but hopefully we'll be seeing them soon in another league."

TONIGHT'S GAME

Whitecaps Men vs. Seattle Sounders

Kickoff: 8 p.m. at Swangard Stadium

Radio: None; TV: FoxSportsWorld

Need to know: Whitecaps D Takashi Hirano (knee) and D Jeff Clarke (leg) are still out, so Diaz Kambere will get another start at the back. ... Newcomer D Chris Pozniak, a Canadian international, will not start but could sub in.

Records: Vancouver (3-1-1, 3 GF, 1 GA); Seattle (2-1-3, 8 GF, 6 GA)

© The Vancouver Province 2008