SEATTLE - The Seattle Sounders FC-Portland Timbers rivalry is alive and well. An announced crowd of 36,593 packed into Qwest Field Saturday to watch the sides play to a 1-1 draw. It was the largest crowd ever to attend a MLS game at the stadium.
'As an American, you dream about it - to be in a big game that everyone is going to see and you're going to make history,' Timbers goalie Troy Perkins said.
Midfielder Jack Jewsbury agreed with Perkins.
'If they opened it up to 70,000, there would have been 70,000 in here tonight,' Jewsbury said. 'It's exciting to see the passion of the fans, and that just translates onto the field with the players. It's a great rivalry, and I'm just happy to be here and be a part of it.'
• At least two men at Qwest Field had a deeper perspective on what a rivalry means at the elite level of soccer.
Timbers coach John Spencer and Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller played against each other in the English Premier League in the 1990s. Spencer played for Chelsea, while Keller played for Millwall.
During the third round of the FA Cup in 1995, their match went to penalties. As the fifth shooter, Spencer lined up, with Chelsea trailing by a goal. Spencer sent the ball to Keller's left, but Keller guessed correctly and blocked the shot, knocking out Chelsea.
Pandemonium ensued as a riot broke out. Fans stormed the pitch, as police officers, mounted on horseback, tried to hold them back. Millwall players reportedly were attacked. Missiles rained down from the stands at the police, sending at least two officers to the hospital with head injuries.
As the police beat back the invasion, the fans moved out of the stadium, where further brawls ensued. According to Scotland Yard, tear gas was used against the officers. In all, 38 fans were arrested.
•• In many ways, Saturday night's match belonged to Jewsbury. The Timbers captain set up the equalizer when he lined up 30 yards out and sent a beautiful service into the box for Mamadou 'Futty' Danso to head in past Keller.
Jewsbury says it isn't that he has been magically touched by the soccer gods and granted the gift of delivering perfect services. It is more, he said, that the Timbers are allowing him to take free kicks and corner kicks on a regular basis.
'This is a quality that my game brings,' Jewsbury said. 'It's something now given to me on a game-by-game basis, where I'm maybe asked to do it more than what I was in the past.
'I'm trying - no matter if it was five years ago or today - to put the ball in the same spot. Sometimes it comes off right, sometimes it doesn't, and right now it's coming off well. And we've got some confidence in our set pieces.'
••• The Jewsbury-to-'Futty' play was almost a carbon copy of the Timbers' goal against the Philadelphia Union the week before. Jewsbury has four assists this season, and undoubtedly the cat is out of the bag on the team's ability to score off dead balls.
'Their game is predicated around free kicks and set pieces,' Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. 'That's what the danger is. That's what they live for.'
Said Keller: 'We know they're a dangerous team on set pieces. We talked about it all week. They started winning a few more set pieces in dangerous positions, and Jewsbury hits a great ball in, and they have some big bodies in there.'
Spencer said he noticed the Sounders trying to gear up for set pieces.
'They were terrified of us, every set piece that we got,' Spencer said. 'They were scared they were going to give up a goal.'
•••• Jewsbury did not just stand around the pitch waiting for his opportunity to kick a dead ball. His movement and pace were critical for the Timbers throughout the match.
'Jack Jewsbury tonight, at times, was fantastic,' Spencer said. 'He covered every blade of that Astroturf tonight. Covered every inch of the ground. He was magnificent.'
Perhaps Jewsbury's biggest contribution to the Timbers came when neither side was playing, though.
In the 19th minute, Timbers midfielder Diego Chara went down after Osvaldo Alonso hit him in the face with his shoulder while challenging for a ball. As a skirmish broke out between the Timbers and the Sounders, Jewsbury raced in, backing down two Sounders as he went chest to chest with them.
'Everybody on our team, whether you're the captain or the 28th guy on the roster, if one of our guys goes down or gets hit hard where maybe we think it's a dirty challenge or something, we're going to have each other's back,' Jewsbury said. 'That's important to being a good team and a cohesive group, and that's what we are.'
Jewsbury added that being team captain means it is even more important that he stands up for his teammates.
'Absolutely,' Jewsbury said. 'As the captain, you have to make sure you fill that role so that other guys see that and do the same.'