MLS Rivalry Week backstories: Seattle vs. Portland

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If we examine the back stories on how rivalries achieve their deliciously acrimonious state – real rivalries, that is, and not the manufactured ones fans tend to sniff out and disregard with extreme prejudice – they usually check the box on one or more of the elements you see in the box below.

Here we look at the Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders rivalry, and which boxes get checked on this clash of Eastern Conference contenders:

The teams meet at 8 p.m. ET Saturday (NBC Sports Network) at CenturyLink Field.

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The backstory:

Anyone soul who has stood among the deafening shouts of the Timbers Army or the impassioned screams of the Emerald City Supporters would certainly recognize this one as the gold standard of MLS rivalries. This Pacific Northwest maelstrom of shaped-charged hostility has it all.

It starts with rich layers of history dating back to the North American Soccer League, a league before it’s time, certainly, and undone by the weight of its own grand designs. But it did create history, a good chunk coming from Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. Other rivals may not enjoy each other’s company, but none have such deep, deep roots as this one, dating back to the NASL salad days of the late 1970s.

So when Seattle came aboard as Major League Soccer as its 15th franchise in 2009, with Portland and Vancouver soon to follow as Nos. 17 and 18, all the tribal identities of the wonderful supporters groups were always destined to clash (not literally … we hope) in a way yet unseen in Major League Soccer.

Said commissioner Don Garber at the time: “Our sport is driven by rivalries. It’s part of what makes the sport so special in Europe and Latin America, and it’s what helps make the supporters so passionate about their teams. Now we’re going to have an opportunity to create that in the Pacific Northwest.”

If he only knew how great it would be.

The scenes are just so perfectly set, with teeming downtown grounds, the Timbers Army and the Emerald City Supporters in such fine color and voice, and waiting lines for tickets to matches that truly matter. All of them. But especially ones that count in the Cascadia Cup.

Memorable series moments from the series? Since it started in 1975, probably too many to count. Here’s a start. And there’s some great background here.

Personally, I’ll never forget the billboard. Erected in the shadow of Seattle’s rave green ground, Portland had a huge billboard erected prior to the 2011 season (the Timbers’ first in MLS) proclaiming Stumptown “Soccer City USA.” Good one, Merritt Paulson!

Saturday’s match:

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Seattle can be pardoned for an MLS season opening stinker (a loss at home to Montreal) thanks to its subsequent, successful passage through two legs of CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal play. Take that, Tigres!

Osvaldo Alonso (pictured) is still The Man, and the league’s top holding midfielder. (Still a “holding” midfielder, even though he’s playing a little higher up the field this year.)

Portland has been the Kim Kardashian of MLS sides. You know, pretty easy on the eyes but not much substance, not in wins at least. New manager Caleb Porter has the Timbers passing with style and playing defense higher up the field, but there’s been only a draw and a loss at home to show for it.

On the other hand, new playmaker Diego Valeri does look good, doesn’t he?

(MORE: Cascadia Cup leaves Seattle no time to dwell on history)

MLS on NBC makes its 2013 debut when Arlo White and Kyle Martino call New York Red Bulls against D.C. United at 12:30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Network carries two contests after that (Sporting KC vs. Chicago Fire, then Seattle vs. Portland). In between, “The Breakaway” will show goals from foursome of matches NBC is not carrying.

ProSoccerTalk’s series of Rivalry Week back stories:

Khedira laughs off Swedish reporter’s offer of tickets home

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira brushed off a gesture from a Swedish reporter, trading a bit of banter ahead of Germany’s big World Cup match against Sweden on Saturday.

Germany fell 1-0 to Mexico in its opener while Sweden beat South Korea, leading a playful Swede to hand Khedira boarding passes for a flight home to Germany.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Khedira’s reply? He joked that Sweden won’t be a problem and he’ll use the tickets after the World Cup Final.

From Goal.com:

“After this bad start, we know that it’s super difficult, but we know that we are a strong team. We analysed the game, we saw Sweden play and we are sure that we are winning this game.

“I think we’ll need them [plane tickets] on the 16th of July.”

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.