On Sunday, Vancouver Whitecaps FC travel to Portland to take on the Timbers in their final match of the 2017 regular season (1 p.m. PT on TSN and TSN 1040 radio). With a win or a draw, Vancouver will clinch first place in the Western Conference.
Since both clubs joined MLS in 2011, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Portland Timbers have had a habit of stepping on each other’s toes.
It started that first season, when the Timbers spoiled the inaugural MLS match at BC Place with a 1-0 road win.
It carried over to 2012 when the ‘Caps beat Portland to the punch by qualifying for the playoffs before their expansion brethren.
In 2013, the rivalry grew stronger again with three tight draws in three matches, highlighted by an epic scissor kick goal in October.
But none of those first three seasons cut nearly as deep as the past three. That’s when they really began to get on each other’s nerves.
NECK AND NECK
In October of 2014, the ‘Caps were in a tight battle with Portland Timbers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. After a loss in Portland, Vancouver knew that they would likely need to go unbeaten in their final five matches to edge the Timbers.
The run started well. A 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on September 27 pushed the ‘Caps above Portland and into the final playoff spot, but the Timbers remained hot on their tails.
The three following weeks, the positive results continued.
2-0 over FC Dallas.
1-0 in Seattle.
0-0 in San Jose.
The Timbers followed suit each time to keep the pressure on.
Finally, on the last day of the regular season, Portland earned a big road win in Dallas, meaning the ‘Caps then needed a victory over Colorado to overtake Portland one final time.
An epic Kendall Waston header earned that victory, extended the ‘Caps unbeaten run to five matches, and secured the final playoff spot, simultaneously ending the Timbers season.
Who knew that 2014 season would lead to an annual tradition of vital late season matches between the two clubs.
The ‘Caps and Timbers have since taken turns sending the other packing for the offseason.
The Timbers upended the Blue and White in the 2015 playoffs on the way to winning MLS Cup.
Vancouver returned the favour on Decision Day last year by ending Portland’s hopes of a repeat with a 4-1 thrashing at BC Place in the 2016 regular season finale, keeping the Cascadia Cup north of the border in the process.
Now, Vancouver and Portland meet once again on Decision Day with the stakes high. This time, the winner takes the top spot in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs.
And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get another playoff matchup too.