In anticipation of the first Major League Soccer meeting between our Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers, we take a look back at a few of the memorable matches between two of the most history-laden soccer clubs in North America.
1975 – The beginning
On May 16, 1975, the second-year Vancouver Whitecaps and the newly-formed Portland Timbers met for the very first time. The ‘Caps came into the match with a perfect record, having won each of their first five matches against Chicago Sting, Seattle Sounders, Toronto Metros-Croatia, Los Angeles Aztecs and San Jose Earthquakes. Portland, meanwhile, were in the midst of their inaugural season of existence and began with one win and two losses. However, as in any rivalry match, records were thrown out the window. In the end, it was the Timbers who notched the first win of the series, as goals from English midfielders Barry Powell and Tony Betts gave the visitors a 2-0 win at Empire Stadium.
Portland also defeated Vancouver 2-1 at home that season and would go on to win 14 of their final 18 matches overall to win the Western Division. The momentum continued as they made a run all the way to the first-ever Soccer Bowl, where they ultimately lost 2-0 to the Eastern Division-winning Tampa Bay Rowdies.
1977 – The first win
Not only did Portland win the first-ever meeting, but they in fact went on to win the first six matches contested between the two sides – including the 1977 season-opener at Empire Stadium.
The ‘Caps would have to wait the entire season to get another shot against Portland, as the second encounter of the year came in their regular-season finale at Portland’s Civic Stadium (what has today become Jeld-Wen Field). Facing a hostile crowd, Vancouver used a Portland own-goal and a strike from Derek Possee to finally get on the board in the series with a 2-0 win.
The ‘Caps would go on to win all four of their regular season matches against Portland the next two seasons. This included a thrilling 3-2 victory at Civic Stadium in 1979, with a tying goal from current club president Bob Lenarduzzi and an extra-time winner from the legendary Alan Ball. In terms of playoffs, the Timbers held the edge in the NASL days, having won the lone postseason clash in 1978. The Whitecaps would have the last laugh in the end though, as they won the 1979 Soccer Bowl – a feat that Portland were never able to achieve.
2009 – Sweet as roses
After finishing the regular season in the seventh and final playoff spot in the USL First Division, Whitecaps FC beat the second-place Carolina Railhawks in the opening round of the playoffs to set up a semifinal date with the first-place Portland Timbers – who had a terrific regular season. Following a season-opening 1-0 loss to the ‘Caps in Vancouver, Portland went on a monumental 24-match regular season unbeaten streak spanning four months.
The Timbers were clear favourites to topple Vancouver in their postseason battle, but the ‘Caps came on strong when it mattered most. A 2-1 victory at Swangard Stadium in the first leg gave the ‘Caps the advantage heading to Portland, setting the stage for an epic second leg showdown.
A fourth minute header from sensational rookie Marcus Haber put Whitecaps FC up 3-1 on aggregate. However – with a crowd of 14,283 cheering them on – the Timbers fired back. Only six minutes after Haber’s goal, Portland tied the game 1-1. Then on 43 minutes the home team took a 2-1 lead in the match, leveling the aggregate score at 3-3 heading into halftime. The ‘Caps though, would not be deterred and reclaimed the upper hand in the 60th minute off of a superb bending free kick from former captain and current staff coach Martin Nash. On 71 minutes, Marlon James scored to double the aggregate advantage to 5-3. Portland then got a goal back on 83 minutes, but the ‘Caps held on for a 3-3 draw in the Rose city, and a famous 5-4 aggregate series victory.
2010 – Until we meet again
Following an entertaining 2-2 draw between the two teams to end the regular season, the ‘Caps and Timbers met in the first round of the USSF D-2 Pro League playoffs – a fitting way for the longtime rivals to conclude their time in the second tier.
In a matchup featuring 18 players who are currently on the MLS rosters for Vancouver and Portland, the bitter Cascadia Cup foes faced off in the first leg of their playoff encounter on October 7, 2010 at Swangard Stadium. The ‘Caps got off to a dream start, as young Ghanaian midfielder Gershon Koffie scored in the first minute of play. Martin Nash then doubled the lead for the home side with a penalty kick on 13 minutes. Vancouver held firm for the remainder of the match, coming away with a pleasing 2-0 victory.
The Timbers responded with a 1-0 win in the second leg in Portland, but it was not enough, as Whitecaps FC claimed a 2-1 aggregate series victory to take bragging rights into 2011.
The 'Caps are back in MLS action this weekend as they travel down the I-5 to battle Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT with the match broadcast live on TSN. Fans can also listen live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, or watch the match on their Bell mobile devices.