PORTLAND, Ore. – Sunday began with a pregame tifo that read, “Legends are born when the previous are surpassed” and ended with the Timbers being ushered off the pitch to chants of “You can’t stop us! We are the Rose City!” A rabid fan base and a desire to turn a lackluster season around led to the best 30 minutes the Timbers have played in 2012.
A Portland side that came out completely flat last week against the Galaxy netted two goals within the first 25 minutes to establish control against the hated Seattle Sounders. The score line ended at 2-1 to the home side, marking the Timbers first win against archrival Seattle in their short MLS career. The squad was met with a thunderous reaction from the Timbers Army, who has been waiting for a team defining moment all season, and treated their club like a champion gladiator at the Roman Colosseum. The banner at the start of the day beckoned the Timbers to create their own legend and after 90 minutes, John Spencer’s side did not disappoint.
Whenever Seattle and Portland meet, soccer fans across the country put down the remote and tune into the best rivalry that Major League Soccer has to offer. There’s no love lost between the two sides and their supporters. With the Portland crowd chanting about “building a bonfire with Seattle at the top” and Sounders fans referring to the Rose City as PortSCUM, the feud has become the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s of the Pacific Northwest. With the two sides going at it for the first time this season, tensions were high as a crucial three points were up for grabs.
After the pregame festivities that have become so essential to the rivalry and typically mock the away side, the two teams hit the pitch. Under a banner featuring Timbers’ legend Clive Charles, the home squad came out with an energy that hasn’t been a feature at JELD-WEN Field since 2011. The game was wide open during the first team as both sides capitalized on their counter chances, but the defenses held strong once the action was around the boxes.
During the 16th minute the levy finally broke as defender Scott Smith received a pass from Franck Songo’o and raced past a Seattle defender along the wing. Smith fired a cross into the box where the Seattle defense, which has allowed 12 goals over its last six games, had left Kris Boyd all alone. Boyd connected and slammed the ball past Sounders goalie Andrew Weber to give Portland an early lead. Boyd is no stranger to rivalry matches coming from the Scottish side Rangers FC, who play in one of the grittiest rivalries in the soccer world against Celtic FC. The goal was only Boyd’s fifth of the season, but if the Timbers are able to get the Scotsman more crosses, expect his stats skyrocket over the second half of the season.
Portland was able to put in their second goal only nine minutes later and came from an unlikely source. Defender David Horst had already lined a corner kick off the crossbar in the 10th minute when Songo’o targeted him again from the flag fifteen minutes later. Horst didn’t miss this time as he broke free from the absentminded Seattle backline and pushed the corner between Weber and a Sounders defender. The crowd exploded as the Timbers opened up their biggest MLS lead against Seattle. Horst’s goal was the first of his five-year career that included a three-year stint at Real Salt Lake. Portland carried their 2-0 lead into halftime but not without Seattle threatening late near the end of the half, including a shot from Osvaldo Alonso from 30 yards out. The blast forced an acrobatic save from the always-reliable Troy Perkins in net.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid must’ve given a halftime speech that would’ve put Knute Rockne to shame because Seattle opened the second half with ferocious energy. After bludgeoning the Timbers net for the first ten minutes of the half, the Emerald City finally got one back in the 58th minute.
Eddie Johnson raced away from the Portland midfield and then dribbled through four Timber defenders before curling a ball off his left foot into the corner of the net. The floodgates opened for Seattle after Johnson’s highlight and dominated the next 30 minutes of the game. The story seemed all too familiar to Timbers fans this year; the Timbers have given up seven goals in the last 15 minutes of games this year. Despite their recent history, the Portland defense bent but did not break and they were able to wrap up the match 2-1. Hurst’s goal was not only the first of his young career but the eventual game winner. After the match the defender spoke about his special moment.
“It’s got to be one of the great moments of my life,” said Horst. “To score against Seattle in front of all these people, especially with the way we’ve been playing lately, it’s great to get a win for the organization. I couldn’t be more proud of the team today.”
The win gave Portland a pivotal three points in the race for the Cascadian Cup that also includes the Vancouver Whitecaps. Many fans in the Timbers Army will say that the bragging rights of the Republic of Cascadia are just as important as a playoff push, especially when it comes to Seattle. The win over Seattle gave more than just swagger to the city of Portland; it also lifted the Timbers out of last place in the Western Conference. With two games in hand over nearly every team in the West, Portland will be looking to race up the standings before the All-Star break at the end of July.
Next they will head out on the road to take on the Colorado Rapids looking to grab another three points. Another three points for Portland would move the side even with Colorado in the standings. It will be interesting to see how the Timbers react to what was one of there biggest MLS wins in club history.
After defeating the Galaxy 3-0 last season, they were able to rattle off two solid months that had them in the playoff race until the last week of the season. Either way, Sunday June 24th, 2012 will always an immortal day in Timbers history and surely the 2-1 result put a smile on Clive Charles’ face, wherever he may be.