The Timbers didn't hoist it. Their fans didn't cross SW Broadway with it, chanting and singing amid traffic. Their least germophobic supporters swigged no beer from its cold, silver lip.
The Cascadia Cup didn't exchange hands on Saturday night, after the Timbers pulled out a topsy-turvy 1-1 draw with the hated Seattle Sounders in front of 20,438 and a national broadcast audience. Needing a win to secure its first Cup as an MLS side, the Timbers held it together through injuries to keeper Donovan Ricketts and team MVP Diego Chara and withstood Fredy Montero wundergoal to equalize in the 78th on a Rodney Wallace header and snag a draw.
"We’ll accept coming away with a tie," said Portland interim coach and general manager Gavin Wilkinson. "At least we clawed ourselves back into the game."
And with it, the Timbers held tight to their advantage over Seattle and Vancouver, both of whom they'll travel up I-5 to play next month.
Fans of the three Northwest rivals found common ground to start the Cup in 2004 as a way to crown the region's top club. Ardent Timbers fans will tell you no matter what happens during the regular season, winning the Cascadia Cup is of paramount importance. The Timbers may very well call their fans on that stance, as the team wallows near the bottom of the MLS table, nine points removed from a postseason spot.
In other words, only the Cup has the power to make forgetful sophomore season memorable. And the players know it.
"We wanted to raise the trophy in front of the home fans," said Timbers Cap'n Jack Jewsbury. "But now, we got a little bit more work to do.”
Portland now hits the road for a pair of matches (at San Jose on Wednesday, at Salt Lake on Saturday) before returning home on Sept. 29 to face D.C. United. The challenge for the Timbers? Finding motivation to get through what are now (relatively) meaningless MLS matches (standings-wise) before the Cup again takes center stage on Oct. 7 at Seattle. A win there, and the Cup's journey to Goose Hollow will become a reality.
"We’ll go on the road, we have great fan support on the road, and we still get to bring it back to Portland," Wilkinson said after Saturday's match. "Hopefully, if and when.”
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