The reigning champions. Feels good to be king of Cascadia doesn't it? Sure the Timbers just barely scraped by with the trophy last year, but a win is a win and the Timbers proved that they were the best Cascadia Cup team last year. Of course, the MLS scheduling gods shone their light brightly on the Timbers in 2012... 2013? Not so much.
This Saturday the Portland Timbers will make the first of four separate treks up to north to Seattle and Vancouver to begin defending their trophy. Where as last year had the Timbers facing the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps four times at home, this year it will be merely twice. For a team that has only ever won three road games in its history as an MLS side, that's a daunting task. But before you get too gloomy about their prospects, coming off a recent home loss and a home opener that feels like a loss, there is some significant hope here.
I pretty much state this every year but it bears repeating, this is a rivalry game. Not just any rivalry game, it's a Seattle Flounders-fry-em-and-be-done-with-em rivalry game. While the Timbers have yet to win at CenturyLink Field, and believe me that irks me to no end, the enhanced passion will be there all the same. While it's difficult to predict soccer matches in general, rivalry matches are on a whole other level.
We don't know what Caleb Porter's game will look like on the road. Everything we've seen from him so far as either been on neutral territory (Arizona) or at home in Jeld-Wen Field. Home tactics and road tactics are not usually the same. They can't be. Teams naturally play differently when they play at home and, as such, opposing teams need to adjust for that. Porter undoubtedly has a game plan in mind and I would be willing to bet that it's quite different from the away game tactics we saw in 2011 and 2012.
Finally, here's the actual Cascadia Cup schedule:
- March 16th: Portland Timbers @ Seattle Sounders (away)
- May 18th: Portland Timbers @ Vancouver Whitecaps (away)
- August 3rd: Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (home)
- August 25th: Portland Timbers @ Seattle Sounders (away)
- October 6th: Portland Timbers @ Vancouver Whitecaps (away)
- October 13th: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders (home)
Such a schedule actually might help the Timbers out this year, all things considered. The Timbers begin the Cascadia Cup with two away matches against both of the other clubs. If they can get a single win (preferably against Seattle this Saturday) from the two it will lay a solid foundation for the remaining tournament. Really, all the Timbers need to do is remain in the tournament until October. The Timbers have made a habit of winning at BC Place in October and they end the tournament with their home game against Seattle. Those are two big games that the Timbers can and should win.
But it all starts this Saturday. If the Timbers can bring home 3 points from Seattle on their first meeting, it will set the tone for the remaining tournament.
What do you think of the Timbers' chances this year for retaining the Cascadia Cup?