VANCOUVER, BC – MLSsoccer.com conducted an informal survey of Vancouver Whitecaps FC players earlier this year asking: Who is the team’s biggest rival?
The answer was unanimous: it’s Portland Timbers.
“It just feels more special,” said David Ousted. “I think we always have games where we challenge each other, especially last year having the first-ever playoff games against them.”
“I don't know why, but there's something different [about those games],” said Kekuta Manneh. “It's very exciting. Maybe it could be the fans, I don't know, but usually the games are more intense than when we play Seattle.”
“I want to beat Portland so bad,” added Jordan Harvey. “Always, and in every game. Maybe it's just me being bitter because we've lost to them a few times, but I want to turn the tides and be a consistent winner over Portland and play well against Portland and just get results because they have, as the record shows, maybe had our number.”
That was certainly the case in last year’s Western Conference Semifinal, when the Timbers ended Vancouver’s season in a two-leg series that culminated at BC Place.
“It still hurts that they knocked us out last year,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson.
The ‘Caps can return the favour in Sunday’s regular season finale (1 p.m. PT at BC Place – tickets still available). Portland and Vancouver have already met twice since last year's playoff series, with each team winning a game, but not quite with these stakes.
The Timbers currently sit seventh in the Western Conference, just below the red line. A win on Sunday would clinch their playoff berth, which gives Vancouver the opportunity to play the role of spoilers against one of their most bitter rivals.
Sunday’s match will also crown this year’s Cascadia Cup champion.
The situation is clear: the ‘Caps need to beat Portland by at least three goals to reclaim the Cascadia Cup, a supporters-created trophy awarded annually to the team with the best record against their Pacific Northwest rivals (Vancouver, Portland, or Seattle).
Any other result would see the Timbers lift the trophy.
It’s certainly a tall order for Whitecaps FC, but with Portland missing defensive stalwarts Diego Chara and Liam Ridgewell due to caution accumulation, you never know what could happen.
“We’ll be up for [it],” Robinson said. “It’s a great occasion for us, our supporters, to say thank you for sticking with us through thick and thin this year.”