By JOSE M. ROMERO
The Seattle vs. Portland soccer rivalry that goes back to the NASL days has a new chapter after the Timbers unveiled a billboard Thursday proclaiming the Rose City as "Soccer City, USA" mere blocks from the home of the Sounders, Qwest Field.
The photo above was taken from the Timbers' Facebook page. It has spawned another war of words between supporters of the two clubs, one side that has set the standard for fan support (if only in sheer numbers) in Major League Soccer, and the other which has yet to complete its USSF-Division II season, its last before going to MLS next season.
A lot of Sounders fans are outraged and have responded with past results in games against Portland. Timbers fans are gloating over the symbolic banner planted in the heart of enemy territory.
The Timbers use the slogan "Soccer City, USA," on ads and billboards around the Portland area. Yet MLS Commissioner Don Garber gave Seattle the moniker in the days leading up to the MLS Cup final in Seattle last November.
Both towns, separated by about three hours by car, can lay claim to the title based on their rabid fan bases. But there's no arguing that the billboard, right on a major thoroughfare near downtown Seattle, is a salvo of gutsy proportions. It's like the white challenge glove to the face in the dueling days of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
It's not like the flames of this rivalry need any further stoking. The two cities were rivals in USL days and had some memorable matches, and that carried over to 2009 and 2010 when Seattle won both U.S. Open Cup matches at Portland's PGE Park. Both games were hotly contested and featured some gamesmanship even before kickoff.
The two will go at it in the same league next season, along with another Northwest MLS entry, the Vancouver Whitecaps. The billboard is only a precursor of what the commissioner and many other soccer fans are hoping for from the Pacific Northwest.
What do you think of Portland's decision to plant a banner in Seattle Sounders territory? Looking forward to the first MLS meeting between these teams? What do you see Seattle doing to retaliate?
Share your thoughts below.