by: PATRICK COTE Portland Timbers fans cheer their team to a 1-1 tie at Seattle.

SEATTLE - At 4 p.m. Saturday - four hours before kickoff - the area around Qwest Field was relatively quiet. Food-cart workers were beginning to set up shop. A handful of Portland Timbers fans and Seattle Sounders fans were walking around the stadium - not together, of course.

Half a dozen blocks from the stadium, though, you could begin to hear a chorus of hundreds of voices breaking into song. The courtyard of Fuel Sports Eats and Heats bar, where the voices were coming from, looked like a scene out of the movie 'Braveheart.' Sounders fans were dressed in the club's iridescent green uniforms and scarves. Many had their faces painted.

Fuel is one of the many places in Seattle that Timbers fans would do well to avoid.

'I would allow them (in),' said Edwin Baird, the pub's bouncer, who is a Portland transplant. 'But I would tell them that it's an unfriendly, hostile environment for them. They'll get a lot of rousing and stuff like that.

'And if any altercations came down, no matter who started it, my tendency would be to (blame) them instead of the home crowd. These guys are a great boon to the economy down here, and it's important that we keep them happy.'

As the Sounders fans drank beer and continued singing, and as a few Timbers fans walked by, there was pure emotion in the air. This is now the Northwest sports pro rivalry to end all rivalries in the region. It may not have the history of Yankees-Red Sox - dating only to 1975 in the now-defunct North American Soccer League - but the roots run deep.

'It's big,' said Chad MacTaggart, a member of the Timbers Army who traveled north to watch the match. 'It goes more than just the soccer game. It's the Northwest rivalry. One side is trying to say we're better than the other, and it's gone on for years. Timbers and Sounders are 70 games in now. They've played a long time. We have a long history.'

One thing about the new MLS version of the two cities' soccer rivalry is certain, there is no love lost between the respective fans.

'Portland knows that people in Seattle suck,' Timbers fan Dave Aerne said.

For some, the battle between the fans is as important as the battle on the pitch. Such questions as who has the best flags, who cheers the loudest and who has the better drummers fuel the fire.

'There's definitely fans competing,' Timbers fan Dave Jahns said. 'Portland and Seattle is the only place where I'd say it's more fans versus fans than a love of the sport. That's a bit unique about this kind of thing.'

Before the match, Tim Rewr sat dressed in Timbers gear, eating dinner at the Pyramid Alehouse and celebrating his 30th birthday.

'It's awesome,' Rewr said, of beginning a new decade of his life by watching a Timbers match. 'This is a cherished moment.'

Rewr was sitting with friends also wearing Timbers apparel and his family, which was in Sounders gear. Though he was able to overlook his family's allegiance to the Sounders, when the match begins Seattle and its fans will be the enemy.

'The Sounders are our biggest rival,' Rewr said. 'I came up to a game last year and there was a little bit of animosity between (my family and I). I will be rooting for the Timbers, and I will be looking at them the whole time they're rooting for the Sounders.'

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