Strong's Notes: Be The Portland Timbers
It’s no rest for the weary on Saturday night (7pm PT, FOX Soccer; 750 AM The Game; La Pantera 940 AM) as the Portland Timbers, playing their third game in seven days, and on about 72 hours rest from Wednesday’s loss in Kansas City, open up the MLS edition of their Cascadian rivalry with the Vancouver Whitecaps. There’s even more pressure on the team to get a result, and really a win, after two straight losses, but that’s not necessarily the point.
Vancouver is a potentially dangerous team, despite their last-in-the-league place in the standings. In Eric Hassli, they have one of the best scoring, and one of the more interesting and volatile, forwards in MLS; in Camilo and Davide Chiumiento, they have two of the more creative midfielders in the league; and in Jay DeMerit they have a centerback and leader who’s only played for the US in the World Cup. But none of those things are really the point either.
In fact, there’s only one storyline and key that is really at all relevant in my mind to Saturday’s game, and it’s this:
Be The Portland Timbers
Yes, they looked vaguely familiar, and they wore the same green shirts with Alaska Airlines and an axe on them, but that wasn’t the Portland Timbers we saw on the field in Kansas City Wednesday night. Not the Timbers who put on a exhibition of tremendous soccer two weeks ago in a 3-0 demolition of the league-leading LA Galaxy; not the Timbers who showed such grit and determination in grinding out wins earlier this year, and recently against Chicago; not the Timbers who, even down 2-0, still showed fight and vigor to the last minute in Houston on Sunday.
Whoever those guys were, and wherever the real Timbers are, it’ll need to be the correct version of the Rose City XI that takes JELD-WEN Field on Saturday night against a Whitecaps team that is capable of quality on their day, even if those days have been rare. As coaches and players are quick to remind us, the window of opportunity to make the playoffs this year is closing rapidly, and shutting all the more so with each 90 minutes that ends in a loss.
I know the Timbers are capable of something special every time they take the field; I’ve seen a team that fights for each other, that wins individual battles, that works hard for every ball and every chance, and puts together movements of real beauty in front of goal. We know that team, we’ve seen it, and we’ve been proud of it this year. And we’ll need to see it Saturday against Vancouver, not just for the sake of getting a win, not just for the sake of keeping Cascadia Cup hopes alive, but because that’s what the players deserve; to show their real selves, to show how good they know they are, and for them to get the best atmosphere in North American soccer rocking in appreciation.
Here’s hoping that’s the case Saturday night.