I don't know exactly what it is, but it seems like the excitement around Cascadia derby week might be a little reduced from its highs in 2012. There might be fans out there for whom this Saturday's game has diminished relevance.
So let's address some of the excuses people might have for not getting on the bus this weekend.
1. Didn't we just win this thing?
Yes, we did. Anti-climactic though it may have seemed at the time, with a bitter 3-0 defeat in Seattle fresh in our minds, we did accrue more points than our Cascadian neighbors over the course of the 2012 season. The Portland Timbers are the reigning Kings of Cascadia.
But true to the form of your average Seattlite, they're pinning more "buts" on our victory than a Sir Mix-a-Lot video. "But Seattle scored more goals head to head!" "But you had home field advantage!"
This is our chance to shove another Cup up their buts.
2. Yeah, but still, it seems early in the season to think about the Cascadia Cup.
It's true, the first Cascadia Cup match-up of the MLS era took place on May 11, 2011. Last year, Portland's first derby match happened on May 26. The league threw us for a bit of a loop this year, scheduling the first match in March.
At the same time, though, both teams are looking for their first wins of the season. Both teams are hoping that the energy around this derby can jump start their 2013 campaigns. All that gives Saturday's match outsized importance.
As Club Captain Jack Jewsbury told reporters on Monday, "We're still searching for our first win, and there's no better place to get it than Seattle."
3. Who's even on our team? Where's our firebrand of a coach?
No question, for most of the starting lineup, Saturday's match will be their first taste of the Cascadia rivalry. Meanwhile, Caleb Porter seems to be treating this like any other match, which is a big departure from John Spencer's famous "towel" remark back in May 2011.
But while Will Johnson may not have direct experience with the rivalry, he told Will Conwell in training on Tuesday, "I know most of the team there does not particularly like me, so I think that plays into my hand. I am excited to be a part of this team now, and this rivalry goes to the next level for me."
As for Coach Porter, he is focused on the right thing: winning this match. He may not now have quite as visceral a hatred of that fishing village as we have, but a win at the CLink would be a big step in the right direction.
4. So we're defending the Cup, but from whom?
In the past couple of months our feelings of Cascadian exceptionalism have overtaken our hatred of our northern neighbors, as the biggest threat to the sanctity of our Cup has come not from up North, but from out East. Don Garber has recently backtracked and acknowledged that the Cascadia Cup is not his, but the issue does not appear to be resolved quite yet.
This is a toughie. The way our collective supporters quickly banded together in response to the existential threat was inspiring, and it might feel a bit counter-productive now to poke fun at "Green and Bule" and "Fiiiiight and Wiiiiiin."
Still, do you really want this guy hoisting the Cascadia Cup at the end of this season? I didn't think so.
5. I have no time for Cascadia! I'm busy.
There's always going to be other stuff going on in the world and in our lives. That's no excuse. The Cascadia Cup needs defending, and the fans need to do their part. Simple as that.
Are you traveling to Seattle this weekend?