In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I took a trip up to see the Timbers a few years ago with my wife. After the pre-game festivities, we were already in love. My wife only has one team that she cares for (Timbers), and my MLS team of choice is any team with Steven Gerrard or the Timbers. Now, we both get to watch on as the Portland club makes their way to the MLS Cup Final.
The journey for Portland has been wild. The club has endured injuries to some of their best players; injuries that have occurred at the absolute worst of times. The club has never been seen as one of the viable clubs in the entirety of the league. One of, if not THE, best fan support in the entirety of the MLS, but this is not a club that any of the big-time MLS transfers of the last decade have as a viable destination.
Portland should not be in the MLS Cup Final…but, here they sit.
The Portland Timbers peaked at the perfect time. Scoring goals at will during their playoff run, and finishing off FC Dallas with a solo goal worthy of being MLS goal of the year. It should be mentioned that Dallas was an easy favorite for the title…right before the Timbers scored five goals in two legs against the front-runners. There still aren’t any players that truly stand out as world beaters. Diego Valeri may be the most underrated attacking force in the league, but the rest of the Timbers talent seems to stem from something closer to their fan-base than anything else. Sheer force of will, passion, and desire…all things that the Timbers Army can procure by the bucketful, and it genuinely seems like the players are responding.
However, there is a genuine thought on whether Portland claiming success is really what’s best for the league. The club, as we mentioned, is not one of the biggest spending. Nor is Portland one of the highest profile. A Final between Portland and Columbus will have a hard time drawing the average MLS fan (NY Red Bulls would at least bring a major market into the mix). While most of the world would claim that they want parity in their sports (the ability for any team, on any given day, to win), the reality is that those same fans want their dynasties…want the most high-profile, biggest teams to win. Leicester City at the top of the table is great until April, and then watch all of the other top four fans decry the unlikely leaders. If Portland wins, it is an easy bet that the Timbers will face an even bigger mountain to compete in 2016.
A Timbers championship is still going to be seen as an outside chance. The club may be on a bit of hot streak, but the world will still see the Timbers as the underdog once the first whistle blows for the Final. However, one minute watching their fan-base during the last decade of “almost” shows that the Timbers are the closest thing to “deserved” champions as we may ever see.
If you need yourself a new club to root for, and you’re tired of rooting for the Yankees, the Lakers, Man City/United, Real Madrid…then the Timbers would be a great fit for anyone looking for an incredible experience. No pity in the Rose City.