Earlier this year, I talked to Marco (Carducci) and Sam (Adekugbe) about their thoughts on the team and their experience in the Cascadia rivalry. Also, I did an email survey with representatives from each city and released them on the eve of the derby match. Here we are, 48hrs out from the ultimate regular season showdown. Caps/Timbers on MLS Decision Day. We all know that any Cascadia derby match is gonna be intense, but this will re-define intense
Portland has everything to play for. They are currently on the wrong side of the playoff line, from their point of view. However, it is not entirely under their control. They must also get some help in the form of either (or both) Seattle and Sporting KC losses.
With that in mind, I went out to Caps training to speak with BMO Player of the Year Jordan Harvey and Andrew Jacobson.
I first spoke with AJ about his desire to be on the west coast and transition in joining the Caps. He declined to comment on the process that led to the trade, and moved onto emphasizins the young core and how much fun it's been working with them. I then brought up the joint training sessions that have happened over the course of the season. He described them as "fantastic and gives a hunger to the younger guys, the USL guys. The level is not far off"
I then asked Andrew about his experience in previous derbies he's been in with Cascadia. "It doesn't compare....you can sense the rivalry when you step on the field." I ended our discussion asking his for his take on playing in Portland. "It's what we play for. Those are the games you play for. It's a lot of fun, those are the things you train for"
I started off my discussion with Jordan discussing his time with in Vancouver, and how the city has changed since his arrival. He talked about brand awareness, improvement in the quality of play and having a downtown stadium as major factors in that. In concert with that question, I asked him to talk about Cascadia within that same time period. He said that it is MLS's best rivalry because of how long it's been around. He talked very complimentary about all 3 cities, and their respective fanbases as having a major impact. The relative distance between the cities allows fans to travel, even for poorly scheduled (tv purposes) games. I brought the conversation around to his own position and how it was believed that his job may have been in jeopardy with Sam (Adekugbe), now it's Marcel (deJong) and Brett (Levis). He said that he was once in that position, trying to break through, so he knows how they feel. He also said that it requires a lot more preparation to fend off this challenges. He feels competition for rosters spots is a good thing, not only for him, but for everyone. It pushes up the level of play. I concluded our discussion with a question about how he reacts to seeing Caps supporters outside of Cascadia. "Very surprising for me....It's amazing and those groups that are there, we always try to recognize. I hope we do a good enough job. It does give us a lift" is how he described the travelling support speficially mentioning Toronto, Montreal and New York.
I found both discussions to be interesting for very different reasons. AJ has the veteran experience from different parts of the league and Jordan is one of the longest tenured Caps, but there was one common thing. Cascadia is wonderful. If nothing else, it re-inforced that, despite the platitudes they speak while in front of the camera, they actually care as much as some of us do.