PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 14: Patrick Nyarko #14 of the Chicago Fire goes sprawling on the turf as Kalif Alhassan #11 of the Portland Timbers goes after the ball during the first half of the game at Jeld-Wen Field on April 14, 2011 in Portland, Oregon. The Timbers won the game 4-2.(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
The Portland Timbers have no lack of rivals. There's the heated rivalry between the Timbers and the Seattle Sounders, the friendlier, but still not that friendly, rivalry with the Vancouver Whitecaps and then you have the entire rest of the Western Conference who should all be considered rivals as we battle them directly for one of those five play off spots each and every season. But with the Chicago Fire we have something a little extra special brewing: the friendly rivalry.
It's an interesting thing to think about. After all, when the Timbers take the field Sunday night those friendly feelings certainly won't be there as they strive to win all three points. Still, given the unique history between these two teams I would say that this rivalry shouldn't be anything other than friendly before and after the match.
As Hot Time in Old Town's Ryan Sealock stated in a recent interview with yours truly:
I think what is developing between the two teams is really good for both cities. While it's fun to hate on a rival like Columbus or New England (in our case at least), it will also be pretty nice to have a club that we play with a friendly rivalry. I went to the Timbers/Fire game last year at Toyota Park, and had a very good time conversing with Timbers fans in the parking lot. You guys are certainly a classy group of fans, and I tip my hat to you.
Thanks Ryan! We are classy!
The short version of the history behind all this is this: it all began back in 2004-2005 when the Timbers Army, not having any idea when or if the Timbers would ever grace MLS, chose the Chicago Fire as their MLS team. It was entirely unofficial of course. Just like you or I might have an EPL or Bundesliga team today to support, so did many soccer fans in Portland but for MLS. There was also a base amongst each group simply uniting with each other against the others' rival... in our case that was the Seattle Sounders.
Then in 2009 when the Chicago Fire faced off against the Seattle Sounders in the 2009 play offs the relationship between the Timbers Army and Section 8 was further solidified when the two supporters groups untied in Seattle to create a stronger away support for Chicago. They had unique scarves and all...
Today, the friendliness between the two SGs remains, but the rivalry between the teams has been kicked up a notch. During the 2011 inaugural MLS season, the Portland Timbers won both the home and away series against Chicago. As an inaugural team that's already fairly embarrassing, but for a team whose supporters were already so close it had the making of an instant rivalry.
Additionally, those that were with us last year, will remember that the Fire had the special privilege to open up Jeld-Wen Field in a rambunctious rainy night home opener. Because of that they will forever hold a special place in Timbers history.
So, with all that said, my main point in writing this article in the first place, is that the Fire are the Timbers first serious MLS rivals outside Cascadia and that's something very special. Like how Vancouver has Toronto FC and Seattle has the LA Galaxy, through our past relationship as fans and the lopsided points-earned history in 2011 the Chicago Fire have become a true third rival for the Timbers. A friendly rivalry to boot and one that I'm more than happy to embrace.
Tomorrow we'll have our usual interview and pre-game chat for Sunday's game. That will include more stuff from Ryan up above, including more about the rivalry, but before we kicked off the first and only game of the year with the Chicago Fire I wanted to remind everybody why this match is so special.
What do you guys think of the rivalry brewing between the two teams? Or do you think anything of it at all?
P.S. My history of the events could be a bit skewed. If they are, please let me know and I'll adjust it. Most of it is coming from second hand knowledge.