BEAVERTON, Ore. — There have been many meaningful games between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, including a 1975 North American Soccer League playoff match that helped spark the rivalry between the two soccer communities.
Given that Seattle is shooting for the top record in Major League Soccer in 2012 while Portland works to avoid finishing dead last, Saturday’s visit by the Sounders to Jeld-Wen Field does not figure to produce lasting consequences.
But, in a wayward season, this one match is probably the most important of 2012 for the Timbers.
A win would clinch the 2012 Cascadia Cup trophy for Portland and give the franchise something to celebrate despite its disappointing second season in MLS.
“It’s a way for us to pay (the fans) back in a small way,” Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury said Wednesday. “It means a lot to them. We know that. But it means a little bit more to the group in the locker room as well to bring home some sort of trophy.”
The Cascadia Cup is a trophy created by supporters of the Timbers, Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps. Since 2004 — when all three clubs played in the United Soccer Leagues First Division — the Cascadia Cup has been awarded annually to the club with the best head-to-head record in matches among the three teams. Portland won this cup in 2009 and 2010, the two years that Seattle was not involved because the Sounders jumped to MLS while the Whitecaps and Timbers were still second-division clubs.
“It’s more important to some people, less important for others,” said Gavin Wilkinson, the Timbers general manager and interim head coach. “But it’s a very, very important game for the organization, especially (this season).”
Portland leads the 2012 Cup standings with seven points from three matches — wins over the Sounders and Whitecaps and one draw with the Whitecaps.
A win on Saturday would put Portland at 10 points from four matches. Seattle would be stuck on four points, six back with two cup matches remaining for each team. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head results, so a second win over Seattle would guarantee the Cascadia Cup goes to Portland.
The 2012 MLS schedule gives the Timbers the advantage of playing four of its six Cascadia Cup matches at home. Saturday is the last of those, with October matches at Seattle and at Vancouver ahead.
A Sounders win on Saturday would put Seattle in good position to retain the Cup it won in 2011. By winning this match, the Sounders would tie Portland atop the Cascadia standings with an Oct. 7 home match against the Timbers. A Saturday draw would keep all three teams in contention entering the last month of the season.