SEATTLE — Brian Fernandez only arrived in Portland a couple of months ago. He’s quickly become a despised figure in Seattle.
Fernandez scored his second goal of the match in the 51st minute, moments after Seattle had pulled even, and the Portland Timbers beat the Sounders 2-1 Sunday night in the first Major League Soccer clash of the season between the Cascadia rivals.
For Fernandez, it was his third and fourth goals against Seattle this season. He scored twice against the Sounders when the sides met in a U.S. Open Cup match last month.
But what he did on Sunday — before a crowd of more than 50,000 — had a bigger impact.
“To come to a stadium, especially in a big rivalry derby like this, and be able to score and be able to quiet people and not have people talk to you during the match it’s beautiful,” Fernandez said through an interpreter. “It’s part of the game. I don’t mean to be condescending. I don’t mean to be arrogant about it. It’s just one of those beautiful things about football.”
It was the first league matchup between the rivals since last year’s Western Conference semifinals, when Portland advanced from the two-leg series after an exhausting, exhilarating second-leg that eventually went to penalties before the Timbers moved on. Portland reached the MLS Cup final before losing to Atlanta.
While the stakes weren’t the same, the intensity between the two long rivals was evident and erupted after the final whistle with several scrums, plenty of pushing and shoving and players needing to be separated. Seattle’s Roman Torres and Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark were at the center of the activity, but plenty of others were involved.
“When you get taunted by some of their players toward the end of the game, that’s a rivalry,” said Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who was trying to separate others after the game. “Maybe getting feisty after the referee blows the whistle and people go after each other, we just need to remember those moments when we play them next time.”
Fernandez scored his seventh and eighth goals of the season in just his second full month with the Timbers after being signed as a designated player form Necaxa in Mexico.
Fernandez gave Portland the early lead when he collected the ricochet from Jorge Moreira’s shot off the crossbar and scored in the 20th minute, finishing into an open net. After Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz scored in the 50th minute to pull the Sounders even, Fernandez answered seconds later when his one-time shot deflected off Frei and trickled into the goal.
The victory kept alive Portland’s chances of winning the Cascadia Cup competition between the Timbers, Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps. It was also a crucial three road points for the Timbers, who have just two MLS matches away from Providence Park the rest of the regular season.
It’s also the second straight year Portland won the only regular-season matchup in Seattle.
“There is a belief we can do it together as a group and there is that trust in each other to go out there and play with our hearts and stick to what we ask them to do,” Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said.
While Ruidiaz did collect Seattle’s only goal and his eighth of the season, he’ll also lament a pair of missed chances in the first 45 minutes and another opportunity in the 79th minute.
Seattle will have its chance to get even on Aug. 23 when the teams meet in Portland.
“Still some fire in this rivalry, and that got stoked to a higher level tonight,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We’ll remember some of the things that happened tonight, and hopefully we can use that in the next game.”