A true football derby on American soil: 500 strong from Portland to Seattle

Last weekend I had a chance to be part of a traveling football supporters group for the first time, as along with 500 Timbers Army members I took a bus caravan up to Seattle for the first-ever MLS match between America’s most bitter soccer rivals: Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders.

It wasn’t just a first for me. This was the largest-ever traveling contingent for a soccer club in the history of the United States, and it would have been even larger had there been more tickets made available.

The national sports media was there (I managed to make it on ESPN a few times, without doing anything that would make my mom blush). The league, and, to some extent, the entire North American footballing culture, were watching to see if the hype was just that, to see if the rivalry would erupt, and to see if we’d behave ourselves.

Largely, we did. The 50 of us on the Widmer bus finished off a keg, a few backpacks filled with beer cans and some ambiguous flasks — all used it as fuel for our songs, and we never stopped singing.

It was a site to see and a sound to hear — 500 Portlanders, soaking wet from a ceaseless downpour, filling the bowels of Qwest Field with a truly deafening roar, marching into the stands. When Seattle scored the first goal of the match, the stadium all turned to look at us, to see if we’d (finally) go quiet. We kept singing. When Portland scored the equalizer four minutes later, we nearly levitated.

As a newcomer to the team this year, and to Portland, I loved seeing some of the old-timers take moments last night to look at each other and share a hug, wordlessly conveying the sense of how far they’d come as a group. They should be proud.

Watching the re-broadcast from home the next day, I could hear our band of 500 clearly singing over the 36,000 Seattle fans. It was a true football derby, and I didn’t have to leave America to see it.

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Stephen Hammill

A digital communications specialist with several years experience in media, SEO, digital marketing and public relations, I’ve worked to create content utilizing new media while training others to do the same. Find me on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

One Reply to “A true football derby on American soil: 500 strong from Portland to Seattle”

  1. No relegation/promotion. Lower teams have nothing to play for except tank their seasons for a high draft pick. There’s no mid-season excitement of beginning to know what teams will go down/up.

    The level of soccer is low. It’s like watching an amateur game. I can get the same level of intensity of football watching the mens league.

    Looks like the players in the MLS still play like when they were 12 year olds. That is: run towards the guy with the ball immediately. No space, no creativity. It’s the same everytime. Guy receives a pass only to have the closest opponent near him to run at top speed and kick the ball out of play.

    The commentators. Sure you can commentate like that for hockey and baseball, but not football.

    Most teams still use turf.

    The fans. Southsiders, Red Patch Boys are jokes. Cut and paste chants from England and fake British accent doesn’t mean your a true football fan.

    It’s basically kicky-ball.

    Salary cap doesn’t help at all.

    Washed up players from teams like Derby come to MLS. People, the MLS isn’t getting any better than it already is. No academies to develop players, weak college football, the MLS is gonna stay where it is until the nation actually decides to develop players at a young age instead of turning all their attention to baseball, american football.

    Beckham was supposed to promote the MLS and attract stars, but he went and couldn’t even help the Galaxy make the playoffs. Now he’s in Italy, practically begging to stay(even going as far as saying he’d take a big paycut to stay). And he’s ripped of their playing surfaces as well. If the MLS wants to be taken seriously across the globe, start with turning the playing conditions on-par with European standards.

    Lack of fans in some cities. In a 20,000 seat stadium, only 12,000 show up.

    NFL footballs being used for stadiums. Totally destroys the mood when I have to constantly stare at yard lines all the time. Plus the fact that a NFL stadium seats 70,000, and only 20,000 show up, then there’s no atmosphere at all. No noise.

    No enough promotion.

    Many European football fans root against the MLS.

    North American football fans. After spending nearly 10 years in NA, I’ve followed hockey extensively. The fans are too “whiny” and “b*tchy*. You try to show loyalty to your club by saying things like “blah blah blah you guys suck we’ll always beat you” and they come back with “well our record previous to this game in the last 5 years against you guys was 10-5-4. Then they’ll go on and on about player stats and management and stuff. Maybe it’s common amongst you guys, and I’ve learned to adapt to it, but here in NA there’s too much emphasis on “class” and respect.

    The talent level is too low. I KNOW FOR A FACT that the MLS is NOT reaching out to European talents. Sure maybe when they’re 37 they may come.

    MLS is NOT on par with the lower half of the EPL like most MLS fans say. MLS All-Stars BARELY beat West Ham last year, and you could tell West Ham couldn’t give a rats *** while every single MLS All-Star acted like they were playing the game of their lives, or fighting for a job to get noticed in Europe.

    In conclusion the MLS does in fact suck, but only at the moment. They are about 20-30 years behind, but you can never really get an accurate number since you always hear about the next upcoming superstar whereas you don’t for NA footballers. The physical aspect of the MLS is good though. I am bashing the MLS though because they want to be something they’ll probably never become. The addition of Vancouver, Portland, Philadelphia, and Seattle will improve competition though. I’ve already put down deposits for season tickes so I’ll see how it goes.

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