Timbers: Well, that went well ...
The Portland Timbers made it into the MLS Cup playoffs on the final day of what has been a home-heavy second half of the season.
This summer, fans have had matches almost every week in which to see the Timbers close up and watch them turn good form on the road into a slump to seventh, sometimes eighth place.
Going up Sunday against the San Jose Earthquakes, who had lost five in a row but still had a chance of making the playoffs, some fans sounded worried. With the Timbers missing their two most productive attackers, Diego Valeri (hamstring) and Brian Fernandez (suspended) the prospects didn't look great when the game was tied 1-1 at halftime.
Nameer al-Mulla, waiting with his friend on the eastside concourse at halftime, summed up the season thus: "I don't think it's been good season, not a strong season, but I think we're going to make it (the playoffs)." He said finishing in the final third of the field has been inconsistent.
"I don't know what's going on with Valeri," he said. "But I don't think we're going to get in the final. I would like to see us getting up there, but I don't see that going. This team is not as strong as we can be. We've had better seasons."
A few yards along, J.T. White said he thought the 2019 season has been great for the Timbers. "We've been aggressive this whole game. We have a chance to win. We have to draw, I mean, c'mon," he said.
He thinks the Timbers can go all the way and win the MLS Cup again, like in 2015. "In playoffs, you're not playing for third place. You're playing for first place, right?" he said.
A fan in the North End who went by the pseudonym Johnny Walker said: "All you've got to do is back your way into the playoffs and then try to be good for four games in a row. We've done it before. Eventually we'll do it again. This yea,r I think some other team will do it again. But it's not hard in this league to win four games in a row, or five now."
He did not enjoy the season as entertainment. As a season-ticket holder since the United Soccer League days who now lives in the suburbs, the crush of consecutive home games because of the stadium remodel often proved too much.
"There were too many games too soon," he said. "It was exhausting. People could not give tickets away. The construction schedule was brutal. There were times we would say, 'Do we really want to drive into town? Well, no, because it's Wednesday. We're going to have to do it again Sunday."
"Daniels" had been frustrated by the fitful end to the season. He feels Timbers lost too easily when other teams around them were also losing.
"We were gifted a whole bunch of Western Conference teams losing a whole bunch of games. And what did we do? We dropped the ball," he said.
In summary, he said of Sunday's climax, "We get to just make amazing TV. Television that, honestly, the rest of the country doesn't deserve."
With the score at 2-1 to the Timbers, and Sebastian Blanco's sublime curling free kick yet to exist to make it 3-1, he was still confident. "We will be in the playoffs and play on Sunday or whenever," he said.
Also exiting the North End, longtime fan Kim Larson classed the whole season as "okay. We started off a little bit rocky, but we pulled our way through somehow. I got a little worried toward the end. But when you're a true Timbers fan, you know there are ups and downs."
Play-wise, she liked the improvement in the back line. "But I think (coach Giovanni Savarese) has a very decent amount of people that he can choose from. I'm hoping we'll kick ass again. I'm hoping we get to go see them in the final, wherever. Hell, yeah, it could even be here (at Providence Park)."
As the whistle went and the Timbers Army did the Tetris victory dance, cheered goalie Steve Clark as their player of the year, clapped the goal scorers with their log slices, booed the ref and called for the absent Valeri, It became known that Portland could host the final, in theory, if it is against a lower-ranking Eastern Conference team.
"But LAFC is looking pretty fierce," said Larson of the runaway league leaders. "So it would take a little bit of luck. But I think we have a good chance to go pretty far."
Outside the ground, getting on his bicycle, Sean Voland said he came all season and watched the rest on TV. "We had our ups and downs," he said. "A lot of (games) were really crazy because we didn't do a lot of our normal Timbers stuff until the end. And losing Fernandez and then Valeri without really a lot of explanation from the team and why they just gave up on Fernandez for his red card (not challenging MLS to rescind Fernandez's sending off, which kept him out of the Quakes game), it's kind of weird, right? There weren't a lot of reasons why we didn't play the guy that we've paid $10 million for, except for he's just not feeling well."
Voland feels he is being kept in the dark.
"He's the highest-paid player in the Timbers and we didn't play him," he said. "And if he didn't fit in with what Gio was doing, that is one thing. But there's something that's underlying that."
He's unimpressed that the Timbers will now take on Real Salt Lake (Oct. 19 in Utah) and their bogey man goalkeeper, Nick Rimando, one more time. He was hoping for Seattle, which instead vaulted up to second place on the final day.
Voland was unhappy with the Timbers organization for another reason.
"I'd be happy," he said, "if we get through every round. And if we don't if we don't beat RSL, yeah, it's not a big deal. The way that this this front office handled our season this year, I didn't really expect this team to do anything, especially with all the controversy with the Iron Front flag, not taking a stand until the very end. They divided the fans for no good reason other than for politics."
Voland said there are only about 15 good teams in the league and most of them chose to look the other way when it came to MLS banning political symbols and the Iron Front banner at games.
"They should have backed the fans instead of the league policy," he said.
He said the Timbers Army has the biggest voice and should have been listened to sooner by the TImbers organization.
"We're looked upon in the league culture to lead the way, because we're the loudest supporters group," he said. "I don't think we're the biggest, but we're the most organized."
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