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The five most epic Seattle Sounders-Portland Timbers clashes of the MLS era

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With Seattle and Portland facing off for the second time in a week, Richard Farley looks at their best matches from the past few years.

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The most publicized rivalry in Major League Soccer has become renown for its fan culture, but on the field, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders have provided a series of unparalleled performances. Arguably never playing a dull game since Portland joined MLS in 2011, Sounders-Timbers derbies have provided some of the most memorable matches in recent history, be they in the regular season, playoffs, or Open Cup. No rivalry matches this recent standard, on the field or off.

Though there are two or three others that could claim spots on this list, here are the five games that stand out most in this rivalry’s MLS era:

5. Seattle Sounders 3, Portland Timbers 1 (a.e.t.)

U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals; July 9, 2014

Starfire Stadium; Tukwila, Wash.

The buildup: Three seasons after the Portland Timbers joined Major League Soccer, power was starting to shift in the Pacific Northwest. In 2013, rookie head coach Caleb Porter had guided the Sounders’ archrival to first in the Western Conference and a semifinal appearance in the U.S. Open Cup, bettering Seattle in both competitions. For the first time, Seattle, so focused on taking a next step that would claim MLS Cup, had to worry about losing ground in its own corner of the world.

The result: A contentious first 45 minutes at Starfire Stadium’s bandbox sent the teams back to their locker rooms scoreless. In the second half, though, Osvaldo Alonso, with a leaping overhead backheel at Donovan Ricketts’ far post, gave the Sounders a lead they’d carry into stoppage time. There, though, a sharp-angle poke  from Darlington Nagbe, set up by former Sounder Steve Zakuani, gave fans in Tukwila 30 more minutes of rivalry soccer.

For most of that time, though, Portland would be shorthanded. In the 99th minute, Portland destroyer Diego Chara, already suspended for the teams’ weekend MLS rematch, scissored Marco Pappa to the ground, earning a straight red card from referee Chris Penso. Twelve minutes later, Seattle took advantage, with former Timber Kenny Cooper flicking a cross over a coming Donovan Ricketts to make it 2-1. Pappa later sealed the game, sending the Sounders into the semifinals.

The aftermath: For Portland, the result was part of disappointing step back from its 2013 success. The team would eventually be eliminated in the group stage of CONCACAF Champions League and fail to qualify for the MLS playoffs.

Seattle, however, enjoyed its best season in franchise history. The team would go on to claim the U.S. Open Cup for the fourth time in six tournaments. Later, the Sounders won their first Supporters Shield and equaled the team’s best performance an MLS season, losing on away goals to the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference final.

Continue: An immediate rematch in 2014