For Portland Timbers fans, this is the match they've been waiting for.
Forget that the Timbers have struggled mightily in the past six weeks or that they sit near the bottom of Major League Soccer's standings.
The memory of this winless streak can quickly be erased with a victory over the rival Seattle Sounders at JELD-WEN Field today. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. and the match will be televised on ESPN.
While there is a healthy respect between the two organizations running the Timbers and Sounders, there's still plenty of acrimony. Seattle became the darling of the MLS during its successful first two seasons, becoming the benchmark by which all future MLS expansion franchises would be judged.
But as Seattle got the attention, Portland made sure everyone remembered it was the first city to gain the moniker "Soccer City USA" with a strategically placed billboard just a couple of miles
south of the Sounders home field. It was just the start for the Timbers, who have sold out every game at their renovated stadium in downtown Portland and seem to have matched the fervor Seattle created in its debut season.
Not much got settled on a washed out Saturday night in Seattle in May when the Sounders and Timbers played to a 1-1 tie before 36,000 rain-drenched fans, other than the supporters groups from both teams successfully getting in and out of the stadium without problems developing between the two sides. There were also some words tossed back and forth between Spencer and Seattle coach Sigi Schmid. Both said this week that the verbal jabs were not meant to be personal in any way.
Now comes the return meeting.
"I have a lot of respect for John (Spencer) as a coach. I know we said a lot of things back and forth but I think he is a really good coach," Schmid said. "I thought he was a really good player and I've always liked him and I enjoy the banter as well."
Seattle enters the rivalry showdown on a roll, having gone seven straight matches without a loss. Their 32 points is the third-highest total in the league, behind only Los Angeles and FC Dallas.
Meanwhile, the Timbers are slogging through the struggles most expansion franchises face. Portland is just 0-5-1 over its last six matches since beating Columbus on May 21.
But as Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller said earlier this week, a run of bad form goes out the window in a rivalry match.
"It doesn't matter that we've been on the run we're on and they've been struggling. It doesn't mean a thing," Keller said. "This is a game where both teams are going to have to roll up their sleeves and a game where somebody is going to have to capitalize on somebody's mistake or who does something special to change things. These are tough games for players."