Interview with Geoffrey C. Arnold, Author of Cascadia Clash: Sounders vs Timbers

February 11, 2013

Author Interviews, Books, Oregon, Sports

In this interview with History Press West, sports journalist Geoffrey C. Arnold provides a behind-the-scenes look at his new book Cascadia Clash: Sounders vs Timbers and the greatest soccer rivalry in the United States.

Cascadia Clash: Sounders vs Timbers by Geoffrey C. Arnold

HPW: As a veteran sportswriter, how did you come to cover the soccer beat?

GA: My longtime interest in the sport (I started watching soccer when I was in the military and stationed in England in the late 70s – there wasn’t much else to watch back then). Also, my son and daughter have been playing soccer for many years. So I guess I was the one most familiar with the sport.

HPW: What makes the Sounders-Timbers rivalry one of the best in Major League Soccer? Can you describe the atmosphere when the Sounders and Timbers clash on the pitch?

GA: The history is the biggest reason the Sounders-Timbers rivalry is the best in MLS. These two clubs have been playing against each other for nearly 40 years. Only the Vancouver-Portland and Vancouver-Seattle rivalry can match the longevity of Seattle-Portland.

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Another reason is the close proximity of the cities. The cities are separated by just a three-hour drive north or south on Interstate-5, allowing for supporters to attend away games. That element adds to the electricity, tension and excitement of the rivalry.

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders US Open Cup Round 3 on July 1, 2009, PGE Park, Portland, OR .  Photography by Craig Mitchelldyer.

The atmosphere at these games is always electric and highly charged. Not only is there competition on the field,  but there is competition in the stands between the supporters. Competition between the two cities – Portland residents may not readily admit, but there is some jealousy toward the bigger city to the north – and competitiveness between the cultures of the supporters groups.

When the Golden Scarf is raised before each Sounders game and nearly forty thousand Sounders fans follow suit by raising their own scarves, even the most hardened sports fan cannot help but get chills.–Don Garber, MLS Commissioner

HPW: What are some of the defining traditions/rituals of the Emerald City Supports and the Timbers Army? How do Seattle and Portland fans compare to soccer fans in other parts of the world?

GA: The Sounders have their “March to Match,” where their supporters gather at a nearby park and march en masse to CenturyLink Field before each home game. They also have the “Golden Scarf,” which is presented to players or individuals before games.

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The Timbers possess one of the iconic mascots in all of sports. First it was “Timber Jim” and now they have his successor, “Timber Joey.” Both wield a real chainsaw as a prop, one that is revved up constantly during a home game.

Jim Serrill

I climbed those 100-foot poles… then I wrapped my feet around the line, hung upside down and started swinging back and forth. I had my chainsaw on my hip, and I fired that up. That was the turning point for the crowd responding to me. I became a little bit of a cult hero at that time. –Jim Serrill

HPW: What is it about this sport that creates such a bond between a club and its followers when many of the athletes hail from other countries?

I think one reason why fans in the United States like soccer is because of its lack of frills. There’s no artificial method of “pumping up” the crowd. No music, no cheerleaders, no giant video screens telling fans to “get loud.” Seattle has added a bit more glitz to its home games, but for the most part, the fans sing and chant throughout the game without any prompting. There is a sense of community at a soccer game that doesn’t surface at many other major sporting events.

PORTLAND, OR - JUNE 24: Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers during the MLS regular season game, on June 24, 2012 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, OR.

One more thing: People can relate to soccer more easily than the other major sports. A soccer star can be as small as Lional Messi (5-foot-5) or Landon Donovan (5-8), something that is very rare in football or basketball. When fans see someone who looks like themselves on the field, it’s easier for them to support those players.

These two franchises are helping push MLS to unprecedented levels of commercial and popular success that soccer has not seen since the Pele-driven heyday of the NASL in the mid-1970s. –Kasey Keller

HPW: How do you think the rivalry has influenced the popularity of soccer in the Northwest? 

GA: There’s no question that the rivalry – also the rivalry with Vancouver – is not only driving popularity in the Northwest, it’s driving the popularity in the United States. There’s a reason why the Timbers and Sounders feature so often on national television games. The optics and atmosphere for these games are unmatched at any other MLS game.

Seattle forward Roger Levesque (left, No. 24) and Portland midfielder Jack Jewsbury battle for the ball during the Portland at Seattle game on May 14, 2011, at CenturyLink Field. Photo courtesy of the Seattle Sounders.

I’m the most hated man in Portland.–Roger Levesque

HPW: Who are some of the most reviled players in Sounders and Timbers club history?

GA: There are quite a few. I have an entire chapter in the book titled, “The Villains.”

HPW: After researching the rivalry from its roots in the North American Soccer League in the mid-1970s to today, what top five moments would you include in a highlight reel?

GA: Wow. The top five moments. That’s a tough one.

  1. The U.S. Open Cup game in 2009.
  2. The NASL playoff game in 1975.
  3. Sounders thrilling 3-2 in Portland in July 2011.
  4. Former Portland coach John Spencer’s response to Seattle coach Sigi Schmid’s comments after the 1-1 draw at Seattle in May, 2011.
  5. The huge crowd attendance for the Portland at Seattle game in Oct. 2012.

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HPW: Any predictions for the upcoming Sounders v. Timbers game in March?

GA: Sounders win 3-1.

~~~~

Geoffrey C. ArnoldGeoffrey C. Arnold has been a reporter for the Oregonian for twenty years, including the past two years covering the Portland Timbers and Major League Soccer and a year with the USL First Division Timbers. He has covered a variety of sports and events, including the MLS Cup, NFL Super Bowl, NBA Finals and NCAA Final Four. Arnold has also written for numerous magazines, appeared on television sports shows and on sports radio.

Cascadia Clash: Sounders vs Timbers by Geoffrey C. Arnold is available from the History Press and bookstores in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.

Related Posts:

Interview with Michael Orr, Author of The 1975 Portland Timbers: The Birth of Soccer City, USA

USC and Notre Dame’s Historic Rivalry: A Conversation with Author Don Lechman

New from History Press Sports: Oregon State Baseball

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One Comment on “Interview with Geoffrey C. Arnold, Author of Cascadia Clash: Sounders vs Timbers”

  1. Frank Says:

    “the greatest soccer rivalry in the United States.” Yeah freaking right, this rivalry is so overrated and annoying. No one cares about Portland, shoot I didnt even know where it was until I looked up in a map. Its a good rivalry but to say its the greatest in USA is biased. This BEST rivaly today is San Jose vs Los Angeles, they got more history in the MLS then Seatte-Portland, shoot even D.C. vs NY is more intense. Just because Seattle or Portland fans say its the “greatest” dont mean it is.

    Reply

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