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May 13, 2011 at 6:56 PM

A stop and chat with ECS co-president Keith Hodo

hodo.jpgPhoto credit: Ted S. Warren, AP

Keith Hodo, a co-president of the Emerald City Supporters pictured above, has been a busy man this week. He took some time out of the “madness” as he put it to talk about a number of issues with me Friday.

One of the main concerns leading into the emotional rivalry game is that of security. Earlier today the ECS released a statement that took a hard stance against tarnishing the event “with any sort of confrontation or violence.” Anyone that instigates an altercation with a Portland Timbers fan will lose his/her ECS membership.

More from the statement: “ECS members and leadership have put in tens of thousands of hours in working towards growing supporter culture in the Northwest. The last thing we want or need is for a single individual to throw all that effort away.”

Now to Hodo:

* * *

(What was the last Cascadia Cup experience you remember?) “The last time that we held it was in ’08. When we won the USL-1 championship in 2007 we drank out of that thing. It needed a new coat of varnish on the inside. Believe it or not, we actually got Chris Eylander to drink out of it with us. That was the funniest thing; it was cool to see him do that. Le Toux? No way. He wouldn’t touch that.”

(Do the fans feel an added responsibility to carry on the history, especially as a lot of the Sounders are still learning it?) “I think that they definitely will understand the history. It’s just about educating them at this point in time. It’s been tough for us in that we’ve had to be the ones to champion and tie together the history since 1974. It’s nice to see that the club is backing that now. Originally it seemed like they wanted to be a new franchise. It’s nice to see that they realize that the history is much deeper than that. When you honor that history it really brings the community together. I’ve talked to so many people that I probably never would have about how they drove up to Vancouver or took a caravan to Portland back in the ’70s. I wasn’t even born yet!”

(A lot of talk around the country has been praising Portland as a place to view MLS. Do you guys view Saturday as a chance to remind the country what Seattle’s soccer support is all about?) “It’s funny to see them put up the ‘Kings of Cascadia’ stuff, but they’ll be reminded. I can guarantee you that.”

(Did you take it personally when Portland got such great praise for their atmosphere at Jeld-Wen?) “No, I think it’s great. It raises the profile of football in the States. When we see that it motivates us to be even better than we currently are. There’s always room for improvement, not only on the pitch but in the stands.”

(So having a strong rival is a good thing?) “Oh yeah, absolutely, but you don’t want to see your rival do better than you. It’s a motivational factor all around.”

(You had a strongly worded written statement earlier that was meant to discourage any potential conflicts with Portland fans. You even mentioned any instigators would lose his/her membership. Why the hard stance?) “We just want to be proactive and remind our members that we have a goal, and that goal is to bring more than 500 people to Portland away and Vancouver away. There’s been some behind-the-scenes things that have gone on that have been kind of rough. It’d be nice if we had a little bit more trust and leeway, and by taking a proactive stance it reminds our members that they just shouldn’t mess around tomorrow. It’s a very serious thing.”

(Do supporters groups get a bad rap when it comes to incidents in the crowd?) “Being a supporters group you’re a group of people where it’s easy to come and point to or ask if we were involved. It definitely lends itself to that. You can’t just say, ‘OK, there was some incident so let’s email the entire Sounders fan base.’ That stuff just doesn’t work, so any little skirmish or anything little thing we end up getting tied into. It’s unfortunate but I’ve learned that’s just kind of how it goes.”

(What have you made of the team’s stance to limit capacity for Saturday’s game?) “I can see why Adrian says these things. It’s kind of to remind everyone that it is a give-and-take relationship. I think a lot of people took it that it was aimed at us. I think those statements were more geared at Vancouver and Portland by saying, ‘Just because we do have extra seats and ticket inventory, don’t expect to get that from us if you’re not going to open up more seats for our support.’ People have some weird concepts like, ‘Why don’t you open up the entire upper deck for it?’ But then you get this weird imbalance of Portland being able to bring up or Vancouver bringing down as many people as they want and we’d be stuck at 500. I think in that case he really is looking out of the best interests of our side.”

(So you’re on board with it?) “I think that it’s important when he talked about home-field advantage. Yeah, we want to maintain that rather than just let the away support get to a point where it could be half of our fan base.”

(What is the ideal end game for you with these rivalry games?) “I think for us we just want to get to the FIFA recommendation of five-percent of the stadium being opened up for away support. I think that would just further advance the rivalry, because we’ve heard from players before that when they hear certain chants — they have various favorites from the call and repeat of “Seattle! Sounders!” or “Come on Sounders score a goal!” — they want to perform and want to execute. If we can do that and give them the advantage we’re accustomed to at home in these derby matches, that’s even better.”

(And a good showing Saturday would go a long way toward that goal, right?) “Yeah, that’s why we released that statement. Coming full circle on that, we have some goals and it’s not to just overdo it and get rowdy.”

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