One-hundred seventy-three miles separate the Cascadian battlefields of CenturyLink Field and Providence Park. In between are significant mileposts positioned along Interstate 5: Tacoma, Olympia, Centralia, Longview and Vancouver.
And somewhere between where Merritt Paulson placed his Soccer City signage in 2011 and the state borderline under the Columbia lies the dividing line, where the Rave yields to the deeper green color of the arch-rival.
Throughout the world of football there are myriad rationale why fans flock to one side of a derby or another. In close quarters it will likely be differences of religion, social class, political ties or cultural heritage. Generally, however, geography is always a factor. The next most proximate league club to one’s neighborhood is thine enemy. And so it is with Seattle and Portland, and it has been since territorial times of Oregon and Washington.
Today it would be absurd, but once upon a time – actually, make it twice – the road to the Olympic Games ran through Seattle. Lured here under some extraordinary circumstances, U.S. Soccer sent its best team of the day to be road tested on a relatively narrow patch of plastic against some locals with much to prove.
Prior to both the 1972 and ’84 Summer Games, utilizing sheer will and a discretionary expense account, missionaries from the local footballing community convinced federation officials to make Northwest detours, essentially, for the good of the game. All right, so the second visit guarantee involved some wool blends, but more about that in a few paragraphs.
Of course nowadays Seattle would be a logical stop for a national team bound for a major tournament. Big, loud crowds and a beautiful stadium. A generation ago, both city and the sport were pariahs, and perhaps therein was the mutual appeal.