We're LIVE at The Jelly, where a win won't cut it for Portland.
If the Timbers are to extend what's been a dream 2013 campaign, they'll need to defeat their biggest foils—a seasoned Real Salt Lake side PTFC hasn't topped in five tries—by two goals.
Improbable? Certainly. (Only three teams in Portland's situation have moved on in 11 tries) Impossible? Not for a team that's been surprising the rest of Major League Soccer all year.
Down a pair tonight before kicking off what could be the final 90 minutes of its season, Portland has no business advancing to the MLS Cup final. Sorta like they had no right going from eighth to tops in the Western Conference. Or rattling off a 15-game unbeaten streak. Or closing out the last eight matches of the season without a loss.
So is this a case of belief beyond reason? I wouldn't go quite that far. Sure, by all measures, it's unlikely Portland will play beyond this chilly evening. But there's not a soul in this old stadium who thinks the Timbers are out of this thing.
We'll have a Western Conference champion in a few short hours! So click past the jump and follow along as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
We're LIVE in Goose Hollow, where the atmosphere is evidently so electric, the WiFi in the Jeld-Wen Field press box has crumbled under the weight of expectation.
The mass of media—a contingent large enough to overflow to the back of sections 219 and 220 for the first time since the Gold Cup visited earlier this year—has logged in to see logs sawed, as the Timbers and Sounders square off in the biggest match of their 38-year feud.
And holy holy, if you didn't know your neighbor/co-worker/classmate/barista(/rabbi?) was a PTFC fan already—you certainly knew today. Soccer City, USA woke up rain-soaked and covered in green (the Ducks might've helped) in anticipation of the Timbers shifting power in a rivalry that—in the postseason at least—has been one-sided.
Portland will look to knock its hated rivals from the playoffs for the first time since 1975, and all they need is a tie on a field where they haven't lost in eight months. Yep, a draw is all that stands between the league leader in even-stevens (The Timbers had 15, four more than anyone else) and the Western Conference finals.
Portland has shown it belongs there. And now, as coach Caleb Porter said earlier this week, his club is ready to let its "ruthless" self show in front of Timbers Army.
"We try to run teams over at home," he said. "On the road, we try not to get beat, basically. We try to win, but we make sure we don't get beat.
"At home, we go for the jugular."
So cover your necks, Seattle! The Internet may be lagging, but if you click past the jump, I shall do my very best to deftly describe all the action—on and off the pitch.
With eight hours to go until first kick between the Timbers and Sounders, here's your friendly reminder that beating Seattle never gets old:
As you're mentally, emotionally and spiritually preparing yourself for the first 90 minutes of the Timbers' Major League Soccer playoff history (against Seattle because OF COURSE IT IS), take 20 minutes to watch this lovely documentary from the Barnicle Brothers and Prospect Productions.
Tifo follows the creation of one of those giant, section-wide displays of group-love Timbers Army is so wont to do for especially large matches. It also nicely captures Portland's soccer culture at its most earnest and unabashedly grandiose—which is worth your time, if only to calm your nerves before what's sure to be an intensely epic meeting of old adversaries tonight in Seattle.
I wrote about TA's gameday operations crew last year, touching on the Army's (and 107ist's) countless hours of thoughtful planning, painstaking labor and near-sacred treatment of creating both tifo and the ever-evolving match experience. Even then, members talked of becoming the best supporters group in the world—to be not only reputable internationally, but as one put it, "to be a leader that lifts everyone up in MLS around us, so they're constantly raising the bar with us."
In his review of Tifo on Grantland, ESPN FC writer Roger Bennett says that's clearly happening in Goose Hollow.
America has become a bona fide football nation. The Barnicle brothers, Nick and Colin, have bottled this sporting sea change in Tifo. ... To me, the most heartening theme of the Barnicles’ film is that amid the smoke, beer, song, and scarves ubiquitous in any self-respecting football nation, there is something tangibly homegrown about it all. When Timber Joey chainsaws that log and the wood chips start to fly, there can be no mistake. This is self-confident, rhapsodic, "Made in America" soccer culture.
Portland scraps with Seattle in the opening salvo of their two-match playoff series at 7 tonight. They meet again Thursday at 8 p.m. at Jeld-Wen.
The press release went out at 3:41 p.m. Goose Hollow time: The Timbers are in.
We're LIVE at J-WF, where the playoff-bound, first-place Portland Timbers host nemesis Real Salt Lake in a match that's by no means a formality.
"Gee, thanks, Seattle," chorused Soccer City, USA when the Sounders loss at Dallas today clinched PTFC's first postseason berth as a Major League Soccer franchise. One year removed from finishing third from the bottom of the league, the Timbers have not only extended their 2013 campaign—they have legitimate designs on winning this whole damn thing.
But first! The only team to defeat the Timbers twice this season slips into The Jelly carrying one less point but eyeing just as many possibilities. The winner puts their best foot forward on claiming the Western Conference title and home-pitch advantage in the MLS playoffs. They also stay in the running for the league's best record and the Bedazzle-encrusted Supporters' Shield that comes with it.
And while one side is running hot, the other is hoping tonight will bring a late-season kick-start. RSL has scored just twice in five games and hasn't played since Oct. 5. PTFC is unbeaten in six straight and has four straight shutout wins at home, sweet home.
"We’re peaking at the right time," said Timbers coach Caleb Porter earlier this week. "We're confident right now, and that's what you want."
You know what else you want? Lots of words about what's likely to be a freewheeling slugfest between two teams that have combined for 15 goals this season. Right? Yes! So click past the jump and follow along as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
The Timbers can't quite punch their ticket to the postseason tonight, but oh, the things they can do.
We're LIVE at the Jelly, where first place in the Western Conference and nothing less than a Cascadia Cup will be decided as Portland hosts Seattle at 6(ish) p.m. Goose Hollow time.
A win by the Timbers puts Portland atop the West with two matches to play, while a draw sends Seattle home sans hardware—and Whitecaps backers carrying a trophy across international borders.
Two weeks ago, Seattle was riding high atop the table after winning eight of nine. Now after yielding nine goals in back-to-back fugly losses, the Sounders are suddenly spiraling adrift like Sandy Bullock in Gravity. Depending on who you read, the Sounders are in free-fall. They're dreadful. "A ship about to take on water."
Shoot, according to coach Sigi Schmid, Seattle can't do much of anything right.
"We’re just not making plays." he said. "We’re not making saves, we’re not making defensive stops, we’re not winning tackles. People are slipping in behind us. We’re not running with people."
It's a derby, y'all. And Portland's 100th match as an MLS franchise is sure to be a doozy. So click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
We're LIVE at Jeld-
WetWen Field, where I've taken the pulse of the press box.
I polled 25 media types—journos, bloggers and PTFC staff alike—with a simple question: Will the Timbers make the playoffs in 2013?
The results were nearly unanimous: 24 yay, 1 nay.
But is Portland's postseason forecast as clear as the skies aren't today? With five matches left to play, the press box certainly believes so. And should the Timbers claim victory today in a matinee against the Galaxy, they might even convert that last guy. Ah, but such a task could prove tricky against the two-time defending MLS Cup champions rounding into good health and playoff form.
Landon Donovan returns to the starting lineup for Los Angeles after being nagged/sidelined by a sprained ankle for two weeks. Paired with MVP frontrunner Robbie Keane up front, Donovan and the Galaxy are the toughest team in the league when, as Timbers coach Caleb Porter put it this week, "they turn it up and they have everybody healthy."
Speaking of, Portland should be fairly fresh after a playoff-push-commencing 1-0 win vs. Colorado here last week. Unbeaten in 12 straight at home, the Timbers have picked up their share of points on LA this season, beating the Galaxy in July and rocking a scoreless road draw in June. Like they have twice before, knowing when to push ahead and when to lock it down against one of the top countering clubs in the league will be key.
Said Timbers Capt. Will Johnson: "We just have to predict bad things are going to happen." Unlike the press box.
So ride the landslide and click past the jump, as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
It's looking a lot like fall—are the Timbers ready to rise?
We're LIVE at The Jelly where Portland faces fellow Western Conference contender Colorado in a match with myriad playoff implications.
The Timbers could pass the Rapids in the standings with a win tonight and move into third place with five matches to play. They're sitting precariously in the five-spot at the moment, but Portland is fortunate to face the very four teams ahead of them in the standings—at home—over the next month.
Of course, Colorado comes in playing some solid footy of late. They're 7-1-4 in their last 12 matches, making them "one of the most impressive surprises" of the season. Portland, meanwhile, has just a single win in its last five, and the club's mentality has been a hot topic this week after a bit-too-casual 1-1 draw at Chivas USA on Saturday in what was a prime opportunity to grab points.
Spurned at the chance to climb the table, the Timbers are hungry for dinner.
"Sometimes it’s better to be the hunter than the hunted," said coach Caleb Porter earlier this week. "I think we’re the hunter in this game that has to overtake Colorado to basically take their position."
Appetite whet yet? If so, click past that jump and follow along as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
In terms of paint-on-canvas as a medium, it doesn't get much bigger than Timbers Army tifo.
And on Saturday, a small (or large) piece of that action can be yours.
According to TA's Facebook page, fans who show up to Waterfront Park between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday with a pair of scissors can cut themselves a custom-sized slice of tifo and take "a piece of Timbers Army tifo history" home with them. They're cleaning out the Fanladen and
promise hope to have such memorable banners as Cascadia Sam, Wu Tang, Legends, King of Clubs, Salt Girl and City of Thorns available for the cutting.
From the TA:
You may take as big or small of a piece as you like. Just make sure you bring your own scissors or cutting device and have a way to take it home.
This will be on a first come first serve basis people. So make sure you get there early.
That last bit is worth noting. Remember, this is a crew that lines up hours (and hours) before matches to claim prime seats. You've been warned! BTW, the Timbers return to action on Friday, when they host Colorado.
We're LIVE at The Jelly, where your Portland Timbers host Toronto FC in a match we'll go ahead and call a "should-win" for PTFC. You want three points, do ya?
1. DRAMATICS! Fighting for their postseason lives(!), injuries, suspensions and international call-ups have thinned the Timbers as summer has begun to set on the Rose City. They've dropped two straight, have one win in seven tries and are teetering on the edge of the playoff race with eight matches left.
2. DOUBLE-NEGATIVES! "We're not planning to not win this game," coach Caleb Porter said earlier this week. I can't not agree with that statement—I don't think.
3. HYPERBOLE! Toronto is a lovely city with a terrible footy team. The Reds are ninth out of 10 in the East and are fresh off sacking both their president/GM and player operations while keeping their "shambolic" coach. They've been called lowly, a weak opponent, stinky and easy points. With five international call-ups and both their Designated Players sidelined with injuries, Portland's chances at victory are further improved by the return of Capt. Will Johnson. Just how important is it to have him alongside man-in-motion Diego Chara at midfield? "When they play together they are very destructive defensively in winning balls," Porter said on Friday. "And ripping the heart out of an opponent."
Whatever happens (let's hope nobody's heart is actually ripped out—such a mess could cause a lengthy delay) the only must is clicking past the jump and following along as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
Who's the best in the West? Pretty sure I'm looking at 'em right now.
We're LIVE at The Jelly, where the Timbers could pull into a tie for first place with Real Salt Lake when the two meet at 8(ish) p.m. It's the first of three league meetings over the final two months of the season between these sides—and this lovely summer evening could very well bring the opening salvo in a conversation that'll decide the Western Conference and the Supporters' Shield.
"We're just looking forward to getting them on our home field," said Portland forward Ryan Johnson on Saturday, after the Timbers' 2-1 win vs. Dallas. "We definitely want to impose our will against them and just get a bit of payback."
That'd be for a 2-1, US Open Cup-ousting loss in Utah on Aug. 7, when RSL controlled Portland for much of the match and held off a fierce rally attempt late to advance to the final. Yes, it was only two weeks ago, but this match is likely to have a different look with lineup shifts all over the pitch.
Salt Lake will be without regular keeper Nick Rimando, and starters Alvaro Saborio and Carlos Salcedo, while (BURY THE LEAD) both teams will be without their on-field leaders: Portland Capt. Will Johnson is still nursing a shoulder injury he suffered in Salt Lake, while RSL's Kyle Beckerman sits the bench for yellow-card accumulation.
The top of the table is within sight! So stop making that face, click past the jump and follow along as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
In a marketing fail destined for a rivalry week, the Seattle Sounders earnestly asked their fans today to tweet pictures of themselves showing their best "Deuce Face" in honor of newly arrived (and unfortunately nicknamed) U.S. Men's National Team star Clint "Deuce" Dempsey.
You see, during a USMNT match against Jamaica in September, Dempsey rushed in during a brief scuffle on the pitch and showed he wasn't about to take any shit from the Raggae Boyz...by making a face that looked like he was taking a shit.
From the Sounders:
That is when he famously scrunched up his face and made a mocking gesture toward one of his Jamaican opponents in what quickly became known—and celebrated—as “Deuce Face."...The player on the other side of that now-famous face that has been mimicked and made into giant cutout posters by fans at U.S. Soccer matches was Portland Timbers forward Ryan Johnson.
In honor of that signature moment, we are offering a signed Dempsey Sounders FC jersey and two tickets to Sunday’s match against the Timbers for the best rendition of Dempsey’s Deuce Face. To enter the contest, submit photos via twitter by using the hashtag #MyDeuceFace. A winner will be selected on Saturday.
Before heading to Seattle on Sunday, the Timbers host Real Salt Lake tomorrow night at Jeld-Wen Field. First kick is set for 8 p.m.
Stack it alongside a 15-game unbeaten streak, and you can make nearly any stretch look like a slump.
We're LIVE at The Jelly, where your Portland Timbers host FC Dallas in an 8ish p.m. match that pits two supposedly struggling sides.
Yes, Portland is 1-3-2 in its last six matches—a slight dip that's seen them eliminated from the US Open Cup, cede a bit of momentum and generate the kind of hand-wringing that comes when expectations rise. Back at it after a 10-day layoff, the Timbers find themselves in a Spanx-tight Western Conference playoff race: Portland sits one point out of second place...and two points out of seventh.
So are they slumping right as the season hits its home stretch? PTFC coach Caleb Porter doesn't think so.
"Everybody thinks we are in a slump right now. I mean, a slump is when you lose multiple games in a row,” Porter said earlier this week. "These guys never lose an edge. We’ve built them to be alpha dogs. We built them to be aggressive and confident and proactive and to not back down."
The Hoops, on the other hand, may actually—technically—be slumping. Dallas is winless in 10 matches—nearly three months—and hadn't scored in five matches before breaking through in a 3-3 draw at LA.
Color Porter not impressed.
"Everyone is talking about Dallas being in a slump," he said on Friday after training. "It is easy to forget that they were on of the best teams in the first half of the year. They are still the same team. They have lost a little bit of confidence, but overall they are a dangerous team and they know they can turn the tend of the season around here by getting a result."
That'll be a tall order, despite the fact that Portland will be without the services of Capt. Will Johnson and fashion plate/forward Frederic Piquionne: The Timbers are 2-0-1 against Dallas already this season and haven't lost in eight tries at home. Can they keep it going and dump all the slump talk?
Only one way to find out (OK, that's not even remotely true, but let's just go with it): Click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
The Timbers released a new video on their YouTube channel yesterday to honor their season ticket holders, and it's worth a look:
Capt. Will Johnson bringing on-field intensity to his commute? Check. Keeper Donovan Ricketts dramatically taping his prized fingers? Yep. Midfielder Sal Zizzo's hair staying perfectly in place during slow-mo drills? You bet.
If the song doesn't sound familiar, don't worry your lil' hipster heart out, because it shouldn't—the Timbers' creative team penned the original tune for the video, which was produced locally by Juliet Zulu and shot by Studio Jelly over two weeks in June/July. Portland musician Mike Coykendall provided vocals, which combined with slow-motion HD and a single strumming guitar make for a rather haunting presentation. The theme also marks a shift in focus from previous PTFC marketing efforts: Whereas last year, the "Portland Timbers anthem" featured fans and players alike, here the camera is squarely on the team as it preps for/plays a match earlier this season against Colorado.
It makes sense: Portland sits in fourth place out west and despite a bit of a lull lately, is primed for a playoff run. Timbers Army is still a big part of the home-game draw, without a doubt, but those who've secured a ticket this sold-out MLS season have witnessed some win-or-die-t(r)ying action on the pitch, too. Speaking of, the Timbers are back home at 8 p.m. Saturday, when they host Dallas.
It's derby day in Cascadia! Or, as it's known across the rest of the footy-loving country, a meeting of the two Northwest teams who didn't land Clint Dempsey. (Too soon?)
No matter, there's plenty at stake when your Portland Timbers host the middle ingredient of the bonfire, the Vancouver Whitecaps, tonight at 8 p.m. PTFC could vault into the lead of the Cascadia Cup standings and put a sorta-stumbly July firmly in their rearview with a win over our BC buds. After a historic 15-match unbeaten streak dazzled Soccer City, Portland went 1-2-1 last month. Still, they've lost only three games all season and sit tied for second place in a Western Conference with just 10 points between first and eighth position.
Vancouver has followed a similar path as Portland 313 miles south into J-WF tonight: After a six-match unbeaten run of their own, the 'Caps have lost dropped straight and face their share of lineup questions this evening. Striker Kenny Miller is still nursing a groin injury, while midfielders Jun Marques Davidson and Gershon Koffie are sidelined with suspensions. Throw in long-injured centerbacks Jay DeMerit and Andy O’Brien, and the 'Caps are a bit light up top.
“There’s like five of your best players," said Caps coach Martin Rennie earlier this week. Indeed. So what might buoy Vancouver tonight? The MLS debut of keeper David Ousted is a good place to start. Since arriving in July from the Danish Superliga (which I can only assume means "SuperLeague!"), Ousted had admitted to his hatred of riding the bench, while looking forward to experiencing Timbers Army in his first match stateside.
“If there was some good spectators there and a couple of boos in there, that’s something I thrive on,” Ousted said. “I love that. It just makes me play even better. So I’m not nervous getting in there. I’m just waiting for my chance to prove myself.”
He'll have that opportunity against a Timbers side that'll again be missing ever-moving midfielder Diego Chara, who's working through a toe injury. And in a rivalry match that's expected to be as "wonderfully reckless" as ever, coach Caleb Porter is pointing toward his team's ability to press—and finish—as a renewed focus.
"Not that it's been poor," Porter said. "For me, we haven't been quite as aggressive in that part of our game."
"It’s time to take it to another level...The guys know this is the time of year you separate the good teams and things start to shake out."
Man-oh-man, it's a drop-dead gorgeous day in Goose Hollow. So if you're not here (seriously, where are you?), click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
We're LIVE at The Jelly where, tonight, streaking is highly discouraged.
Their 15-match unbeaten run in the books, the Timbers look to make losing a one-time thing when they host the LA Galaxy in an 8(ish) p.m. clash of Western Conference contenders.
If beating Seattle never gets old, besting Los Angeles is always welcome to Portland fans of every stripe, shade and chevron. Ah, but the defending Major League Soccer champs appear to be rounding into form midway through the season, rolling into town behind back-to-back wins and playing their best footy of 2013. Sure, Landon Donovan isn't here tonight (he's still on national-team duty) and the Galaxy haven't won a road match in months, but LA's unpredictable style and stout, Omar Gonzalez-anchored defense is enough for PTFC coach Caleb Porter to consider his team "clear underdogs" in this one.
Is Porter slow-playing his hand a bit? Perhaps not. The Timbers haven't allowed a goal in their last six home matches, but that historic trend will be tested with usual starter Pa Modou Kah suspended after straight kicking a dude in the face. Plus, without Capt. Will Johnson and spark plug Rodney Wallace in the building (they're also kicking it with their countrymen) Portland will need to find offense and energy elsewhere.
"You won’t see a team that is losing confidence," Porter said on Friday. "You’ll see a team that is probably a notch more hungry."
And still humble. After last week's not-so-bad loss at Columbus, Porter accentuated the positive.
"It’s not all that bad to get bloodied and taste defeat," he said. "This team will respond positively from defeat, like good teams do."
Will it be enough to beat LA? Click past the jump to find out, and follow along as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the pitch.
Major League Soccer All-Stars, meet Timbers Army.
Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber and Portland mayor Charlie Hales just announced Portland will host next year's MLS All-Star game.
UPDATE (2:25 pm): If the nature of today's announcement wasn't completely obvious, one needed only look at the press conference's backdrop to see the news: Portland would host the 2014 Major League Soccer All-Star Game, the first major-league All-Star game of any sport to take place in the Rose City.
During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon at Jeld-Wen Field's Key Bank Club, Garber, Paulson and Hales made it official.
"There's something special happening in the market and this stadium," Garber said. "We're proud to announce that next year's AT&T MLS All-Star game will take place here in Jeld-Wen Field and the great city of Portland."
The exhibition match will pit the league's best—coached by Portland coach Caleb Porter—against a to-be-determined international team and will be aired on ESPN and in 130 countries worldwide.
Paulson—who joked that the presser was decidedly NOT to announce he'd been kicked off Twitter by Garber—said it's not hyperbole to say the Timbers have delivered on their promise of four years ago to shine a "terrific spotlight" on the community.
"We've got something really special here," Paulson said. "The eyes of the country and the world will be squarely on Soccer City, USA.
"We're gong to show them an All-Star Game like they've never seen before."
Paulson said he's looking to put together a "host committee" of key local, community and civic leaders, while promising "the biggest global soccer-name opponent that's ever played in Portland."
"I couldn't be more thrilled to be chosen," Paulson added. "We're gonna put our best foot forward, and work starts today on that."
Hales, who was introduced by an MLS emcee as "Charlie Sales," said it's a great honor for Portland and a great fit.
"We're Soccer City, not just here with the Timbers and the Thorns, but all over this city," Hales said. "We're rooted in with soccer here, just like those big Douglas Firs that Timber Joey uses to slice those wood cookies every time we score a goal."
"It's part of our culture, it's part of our community, and that's why it's such a great fit."
Hales looked at Garber and committed the city, its leaders, bureaus and citizens to "join with you and make this a great success for soccer and for Portland."
Click past the jump for the official release from MLS.
Some of the brightest stars in American soccer met their match in terms of fandom last night, as the U.S. Men's National Team cruised to a 6-1 victory over Belize in the first round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The match was a rout (Chris Wondo
wlowski scored three goals in the first half to pace the Americans) but Portland footy fans certainly didn't disappoint. The USMNT's official supporters group—the American Outlaws—teamed with Timbers Army to create a tifo display that incorporated the ol' stars and stripes, an inspiring message (Community Club Country—Everyone has something to stand for) and even an Uncle Sam-inspired figure dressed in Cascadia garb.
Pretty cool. Just ask U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann: He called the crowd "fantastic" and said the match was "a wonderful experience," adding: "The players were all curious how it [would] be, and [the atmosphere] lived up to their expectations."
Video of the tifo rising from the North End after the jump!
The Timbers' 15-match unbeaten streak may have ended on Sunday afternoon, but their reputation as one of the more dangerous clubs in Major League Soccer certainly didn't.
Portland gave up an early goal and played with 10 men for nearly 80 minutes during 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew—PTFC's first defeat since March 9. So did a Timbers team that's rolled to the fourth-longest unbeaten streak in league history finally gets its comeuppance? Not exactly.
Despite losing defender Pa-Modou Kah to a straight red card (after he straight kicked a dude in the face), Portland dominated large stretches and possessed the ball 56% of the match. All this despite not having professional spark plug Rodney Wallace, All-Star (Capt.) Will Johnson and frontline threat Frederic Piquionne (the latter of whom faced each other in a Gold Cup match at the Rose Bowl during Portland's game).
File this one under "coulda/shoulda been worse." But according to coach Caleb Porter, don't put it anywhere near "failure."
"There's no failure, there's just feedback," Porter said postgame. "The feedback I got today was very positive in a lot of ways, again reinforcing just how tough and strong this team is. We got better today, even though we lost. You can get better through losses just as much as you get better through positive results. But sometimes it takes feeling defeat to really stay sharp and stay hungry.”
The loss hardly gives the rest of the league a blueprint on how to contain Portland. Scoring a goal early helps, sure, but even a man down, Portland's pass-happy attack looked effective as ever: They nearly equalized in the 75th, 77th and 85th minutes.
"I think we’re a team that likes to possess the ball, and whether we had 10 or 11 on the field, it’s not going to change much for us," said Cap'n Jack Jewsbury, who wore the armband in Johnson's absence. Added forward Darlington Nagbe: "Even with a man down we still played our game."
The Timbers look to start a new streak on Saturday, when they host Los Angeles at The Jelly. Highlights and full recap from Ohio after the jump!
The Timbers are two wins away from their first trophy as a big-league franchise (other than last year's Cascadia Cup, OF COURSE).
Portland scored thrice in an 11-minute span and messed with FC Dallas under Wednesday night lights, rallying from a halftime deficit to claim a 3-2 victory over the Hoops in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup.
Darlington Nagbe scored perhaps his most impressive goal as a Timber (and that's sayin' somethin', y'all) to start things off in the 61st minute, and within 10 more, Portland was well on its way to the final four of the country's oldest continuous soccer tourney.
Seriously. Look at this:
Just like coach Caleb Porter's postgame reaction.
"I can’t be any more proud of the guys," he said after goals from Diego Valeri (above, 63rd minute) and Frederic Piquionne (72nd). "They continued to show me they have big hearts and brass balls, because they know how to get it done when the game is on the line. That’s the mark of a good team."
Portland will now travel to Utah on Aug. 7 to face Real Salt Lake in its first-ever USOC semifinal. But first the Timbers will play for a more unofficial cup—the inaugural Copa Verde—when they host Mexican first-division club Monarcas Morelia in their first friendly of the season at 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Jelly.
Full recap and highlights after the jump...
It's up to 14 games now, spanning three months, 26 points and uncharted miles of elevation in Major League Soccer's hierarchy. But step down into the Portland Timbers' locker room, and the word isn't exactly springing from everyone's lips.
"I haven't heard one guy talk about the streak," said Club Cap'n Jack Jewsbury last week, after Portland knocked off table-topping FC Dallas in an afternoon thriller here.
Chainsaw-proximity aside, the Timbers may be the only ones not buzzing aloud.
PTFC enters this afternoon's tilt with Colorado a win away from reaching the top of the Western Conference standings. They've already summited a number of MLS Power Rankings, and even fantasy nerds are beginning to take notice of the Rose City's realness.
"This group has something special," Jewsbury said. "And I've been in a locker rooms in the course of my career."
As I wrote about in this week's print edition, there's also a certain level of coolly collected calmness that starts at the top. Portland's turnaround under first-year coach Caleb Porter has been nothing short of a culture change. A club that was repeatedly kicked in the gut around this time last year has been reformed into a deep, versatile, experienced and resilient bunch that's about as well-rounded as it gets, leading the league in goals while earning shutouts in four of six matches. While most point to the Timbers' attack (Porterball! Whatever that is!), Porter says his fellas are becoming a "very good" defensive team, to boot. Andrew Jean-Baptiste and newly acquired Pa Modou Kah are playing beyond their time together after being thrust into starting roles earlier this week. Both are big, athletic and physical to be certain, but Jean-Baptiste says their success comes more from having "no worries" about whoever slides in.
“We just all know how to play with each other, no matter who it is,” Jean-Baptiste said earlier this week. “It’s crazy how it works, we have so many guys going in and out on the backline and we still manage to put up shutouts. It’s impressive, not many teams can do that."
Can they do it again? We have grey skies over Goose Hollow, but the top of the points table is still within sight. So click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action, on and off the pitch.
You know a team is in good form when the importance of a game is bandied about like a Diego Valeri through-ball into the box. After all, nothing says "we're legit" more than being involved in what's expected to be a real dandy against the top team in the league.
Relevance, after all, is the highest form of flattery. Especially with six months left in the season.
"It's our biggest game to this point," said defender Michael Harrington, describing this afternoon's clash of two of best of West. At training yesterday, Cap'n Jack Jewsbury agreed. And when Capt. Will Johnson was asked about the importance of Portland's next 10 days, he answered with a pair of questions.
“Are we going to be fighting for first in the West?" he said. "Or are we back to clawing for a playoff spot?”
Today could be indicative, despite a number of notable absences on both sides. Portland is missing budding star Rodney Wallace (he's still kickin' it with the Costa Rican national team) but Donovan Ricketts and Ryan Johnson will be back. The Hoops will be without leading scorer Blas Perez and former Timber Kenny Cooper, the latter of which flew home this morning to attend to a "family emergency."
Still, head coach Schnellas Hyndman's club is as dangerous as its 28 points from 14 matches suggests. They had a nine-game unbeaten streak earlier this season and have TWO starters who roll with single names (Michel and Jackson). Legit. Portland, of course, is unbeaten in 12 matches—they haven't lost since MARCH, when Hugo Chavez's body was still warm (too soon?). Can the Timbers make it a baker's dozen?
It's a Chamber of Commerce-type day in Goose Hollow. If you're not already here, go ahead and click past the jump, and follow along as I deftly describe all the action—on and off the pitch.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies were the toast of the town two weeks back (along with a certain New Caledonian) after the pluck NASL squad upended the hated Sounders to knock loathsome Seattle out of the U.S. Open Cup early for the first time in five years.
But tonight, Ralph's Mob reacquaints itself with your Portland Timbers, eager to earn a Northwest sweep. The Rowdies' supporters group arrived in J-WF just after 6:30 p.m. and for a moment at least, their voices were louder than Timbers Army.
Yeah, that probably won't last.
Coming off a rather "meh" draw in which they yielded a pair of second-half goals, the Timbers look to give Tampa Bay the 'ol Wilmington treatment and advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup with a win tonight. The Timbers have longest unbeaten streak going in Major League Soccer (they haven't lost since MARCH) but kick off a four-game, 12-day stretch this evening. With Western Conference-leading Dallas heading into town on Saturday, Portland coach Caleb Porter will likely be mindful of his gents' legs. After all, as Capt. Will Johnson pointed out, "it's not humanly possible for a guy to play four games in 12 days, or so, at a high level."
So is it possible for Tampa Bay to pull off an upset tonight? The defending NASL champs are right in the middle of their league's table but are 4-1-1 on the road this season. Their chances may be as dreary as the weather in Goose Hollow tonight, but stranger things have certainly happened.
There are plenty of good seats available in The Jelly tonight, but if you're staying dry and sitting at home, click past that jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action on and off the pitch.
You can't NOT mention Cal FC in a Timbers U.S. Open Cup live blog, so I'll only do it once. There.
Of course, now that we're on the subject, if 2012's shock heard 'round Soccer City taught us one thing, it's that you can never count out an underdog—like, ever. Further proof, it would seem, arrives tonight from Wilmington, N.C., where a struggling USL Pro League team called the "Hammerheads" sits 11th in a 13-team league with losses in every road match and a bleak outlook one-third of a way through its season. Oh, and they're probably exhausted, to boot: Since playing eight days ago in Austin, players have flown back to Wilmington, then bussed 600+ miles to Orlando and Tampa Bay for weekend matches, then flown Monday from Tampa to Portland. They'll fly back for a match on Saturday night before taking on two of the top USL Pro teams on the road over the next two weeks. Phew.
So can these well-traveled Wilmingtonians give Timbers Army the most unimaginably terrible case of deja vu—like ever? I'll say the same thing I said about this time last year—"naaaaaaaaaah." As rocky as Portland appeared in late May of 2012, they look just as smooth in 2013. Unbeaten in 11 matches, the Timbers are second in the Western Conference and seem increasingly dangeronfident (*coined!) by the week. Sure, Portland's lineup tonight may not feature every regular, but another early exit from our nation's oldest footy tourney?
“That’s not going to happen on our watch,” said coach Caleb Porter this week, noting while the team is encouraged by its trajectory, a lack of trophies in its MLS era still drives them. "So this is an opportunity to do just that and win a trophy. “
It'll take five wins, starting tonight. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves (just ask Seattle). Because nothing's guaranteed. Even road-weary minor league teams have a chance. Why else would you click past the jump for more?
Prior to the Timbers' season opener in March, team owner Merritt Paulson used a slightly modified version of a Timbers Army chant to ask the question on every fan's mind.
"We'll sing for you, Timbers," he tweeted on March 3. "Will you finish the fight?"
The answer appears to be a resounding "YES."
Portland once again proved it's not a team to be counted out on Saturday: The Timbers rallied twice to shock a large swath of soccer-loving British Columbia and earn a 2-2 draw against rival Vancouver, leveling the playing field in the race for the Cascadia Cup.
Down a goal and a man after a dubious straight-red-card sent Futty Danso to the locker room, Jose "Trencito" Valencia
caught chested down a Hail Mary pass from Will Johnson, calmly cut back and scored his first career MLS goal to kick Portland's unbeaten streak ahead to a historic 10 straight matches. An improbable result? Sure, but with these 2013 Timbers, improbability is slowly becoming more impossible to define.
“This team just seems to have that ‘never quit, refuse to lose’ [attitude]," said coach Caleb Porter postgame. "And you hope you can kind of harness it in a team.
"Some teams just never have it, but this team has it."
You simply couldn't say the same for the 2011 and 2012 Timbers. Road deficits seemed hopeless to overcome. Fans spent the final 15 minutes of matches searching for positives—moral victories to cling to. Now supporters spend that same time expecting something special to happen.
"You fight and you try because we’ve got a thousand fans that sit up in the stands who expect nothing less," said Johnson, who scored on a penalty kick in the 52nd to level the match. "We recognize we’ve got to fight even if it doesn’t look like there’s any chance and the task looks impossible."
Video highlights and official recap after the jump.
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