Three Thoughts: Party Crashers – Stumptown Footy
So last Saturday was pretty fun, huh?
A huge win over a rival, continued dominance at the football stadium, and a nice mess of unveiling a piece of plastic and/or cardboard.
Overall: A damn good day for the Portland Timbers.
Here are three thoughts on how it all went:
Ride with your guys
We’ll get to the high-level rivalry issues, I promise, but we have to start with the on-court product, which ended up being another Timbers victory in Seattle. This time it was on pace for a solid 3-0 win.
Before all of this happened, I was a little nervous. When the rosters were announced, Giovanni Savarese picked Larrys Mabiala and Dairo Zuparic as his starting centre-back duo. While Zuparic has been fairly stable for most of the year, Mabiala has been a little less so. In Mabiala’s two previous starts, Portland conceded three goals, and the once steadfast defender may have looked a little behind.
Well, as has been the odd trend this year, Mabiala must have heard the complaints as he put in a strong defensive performance that afternoon. He helped the baseline in Portland’s first clean sheet against Seattle since 2020, and overall he kept pace with a high-intensity game.
Overall, Portland’s defense limited Seattle to just three shots on target. The Sounders, especially after taking down a man, resorted to cross after cross lobs in the Portland box (24 in total), and the Timbers defense looked calm as they cleared them all. Portland’s backline racked up 29 clearances in total, and Mabiala led the way with nine to his name (all numbers according to FBref).
It wasn’t an extinct defensive performance – Seattle still put up an expected 1.4 goals, and maybe should have scored at least one over the rest of the game. But it was enough, and it was a nice validation for Savarese who chose to ride with his two old pillars at the back.
Maximize the moments
One of the things that Giovanni Savarese pointed out as one of his team’s main shortcomings earlier in the year was Portland’s inability to capitalize on the moments, and the way his team failed to show enough clinical finish when she had chances to score.
On Saturday, it seemed like it was all happening again. Portland were given a gift early in the half as Jackson Ragen picked up his second yellow card, but apart from a pair of chances for Sebastian Blanco… they didn’t create much offensively until the last minutes. There were long stretches of the second half where Portland didn’t look like they had a men’s advantage. Some of that is due to Seattle falling to a lower block, but much of it can be attributed to Portland’s inability to perform.
And then everything changed in the 80th minute. Portland was eventually able to execute a clean counter-attacking opportunity which allowed Santiago Moreno to win and subsequently send the penalty. Three minutes later, the Timbers took advantage of the Sounders pushing far down the field, when Dairon Asprilla sent them en masse to the exits.
Even Portland’s opener was a maximized moment. After a period of sustained pressure, the Timbers executed one of their rare counter-attacking opportunities in the first half, thanks to a header from Jaroslaw Niezgoda (always apologies, Jaro!).
Saturday wasn’t the prettiest rivalry victory, but it was significant as it depicted Portland maximizing their moments – something that has eluded them for most of the year so far.
Run around Seattle
Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei gave a pre-game quote about how he felt like all the celebrations planned in Seattle as the Concacaf Champions League champions ‘poured gas’ all over the place rivalry.
Well, if that was the case, then on Saturday Portland waltzed into Lumen Field, dropped a lit match, then jumped, cheered and sang as they watched the fire.
In the never-ending Timbers-Sounders rivalry, Saturday felt like another escalation between the two sides – one that was particularly sweet for Timbers fans. Portland has won in Seattle several times before, and many have felt pretty good about it (anyone remember the 2018 Auto Show?). But this one will forever live on in the rivalry echelons due to everything that came before the game even kicked off.
Fireworks. Paratroopers. Unveiling of a banner. Drew Carey giving a pregame speech— while the players were on the pitch— calling out Timbers players, the Timbers organization, as well as Timbers fans. Sounders fans in attendance cheered and mocked their rivals from I-5.
And then… the Timbers sent them all home sad. A game that was meant to be a celebration saw the home side scoreless, a Sounders defender sent off, Portland increased the score and overall bad vibes took over the stadium – except of course at the top clad in green and gold platform.
The takeaway here is that the Sounders don’t have have do all of the above last Saturday. They won the CCL final two months earlier. They could have chosen literally any other opponent on any other date to raise their banner, speak their speech and lay down their paratroopers against.
But no, they wanted to do it against their biggest rivals. They wanted the Timbers to see the fancy trophy and be there for the reveal of the fancy new banner. They specifically picked last Saturday, with Portland in town.
And oh my god, were the Timbers aware of the intentions:
The end result was that it all blew up in the Sounders’ face.
That doesn’t change much, materially: Seattle still has its banner and intercontinental bragging rights, there’s still about half of the MLS season left to play, and Seattle will have the opportunity in late August to return the favor to the woods. in Portland.
But last Saturday, the Timbers ruined a party. And Timbers fans, to their delight, have won something that will go down in the lore of this rivalry, right next to “Welcome to your Nightmare.” You can’t hang a banner over this, but you can certainly celebrate it for as long (and as, uh, hard) as you want.