The Timbers haven't had a championship parade since winning the Major League Soccer Cup in 2015. It's safe to say they won't be having one in 2020 either—but they still might win a championship.
On Wednesday, the team advanced to the final of the league's MLS Is Back Tournament with a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in Orlando, Fla. They'll face either Minnesota United or Orlando City SC, which play in the other semifinal Thursday.
Both goals began with Diego Valeri corner kicks, and both were headers: the first from Jeremy Ebobisse early in the game, and the second from Sebastian Blanco at the 70-minute mark. The Union nearly spoiled things by scoring twice in the final five minutes, but the second goal was ruled offside.
That the Timbers made it this far was unexpected. Entering the tournament, the handicappers at FiveThirtyEight gave Portland a 6% chance of making the final, and a 3% chance of winning.
But the Timbers had depth and defense and, as usual, Diego Chara. Time and again in the tournament, the Timbers' best and most exciting players delivered. Aside from Valeri, Blanco has had either a goal or an assist in all six matches. Ebobisse scored a goal in each of the tournament's first three games and again tonight, while also playing a huge role in the MLS players' Black Lives Matter activism, including the ubiquitous T-shirts.
At Wednesday's press conference, Valeri and Giovanni Savarese wore Timbers-branded face masks, while Ebobisse's read "SILENCE=COMPLICITY."
All in all, the Timbers have been a much more watchable team than they were in 2019, when they missed the playoffs, adding insult to injury in a season that started with 12 straight road games due to the addition of new high-dollar seats at Providence Park, and also included MLS's attempted ban of the anti-fascist Iron Front symbol.
A tournament with no fans and the players risking their health wasn't exactly something most of #RCTID was looking forward to. But it was something. And while it began with the COVID-related withdrawal of two teams (Dallas and Nashville) before things even started, it's since gone off without a hitch.
The Timbers originally began this MLS season on March 1, the day after the Portland region had its first reported case of COVID-19. Rumor is that MLS still intends to resume a regular schedule, with or without fans—the Timbers have already refunded or rolled over all 2020 season tickets.
But for now, "MLS Is Back" is the only championship it has. The winner earns a spot in the prestigious Concacaf Champions League, which the Timbers have only qualified for one other time. Plus, there are bragging rights.
"It would mean a lot for me at this point in my career to get back to Portland with another trophy," Valeri said.