Timbers supporters in the north end of Providence Park have a phrase: “If you want to be in the Timbers Army, you already are.” Whether you’re a depressed Blazers fan in need of distraction, a Euro-snob who exclusively follows the Premier League, or just someone who hasn’t yet fallen in love with the world’s favorite sport, consider yourself heartily welcomed to hop on the bandwagon this Saturday as the Portland Timbers take a run at the MLS Cup.
Here’s what you need to know:
What’s at stake: The Timbers play the New York City Football Club for the MLS Cup. A victory gives Portland their second trophy and a ticket to the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Champions League, a tournament against other clubs across North America.
What’s up with the Timbers this year? After a slow start mired by injuries, the Timbers have boasted a blistering 13-3-1 record since August. It appears Sebastian Blanco, Portland’s most valuable offensive player and shit talker, has miraculously recovered from a sore hamstring suffered two weeks ago. There are whispers this might be club legend Diego Valeri’s last match if he retires, but the youth movement is alive and well; youngsters Marvin Loría, Cristhian Paredes and Santiago Moreno played significant roles in last week’s victory. Meanwhile, veteran Diego Chara somehow refuses to age, ruthlessly dominating the midfield.
New York City Football Club? The name’s a dumb homage to their dumb corporate overlords Manchester City in England. Supporters have nicknamed the team the “Cityzens” and “the Pigeons,” both of which I find endearing. Striker Valentín Castellanos, who goes by Taty (also an endearing name), won the Golden Boot this year, and veteran Maxi Moralez runs their attack.
Hasn’t it been a rough year for Portland soccer? It has! Most notably, Portland’s soccer community has been grappling with the horrific reports of alleged sexual abuse by the former coach of the Portland Thorns in 2015. Supporters have various boycotts underway in protest, with demands that include the resignation of Timbers GM Gavin Wilkinson. Look for the 24th minute, when the Timbers Army will light red smoke bombs with large banners reading “Protect Our Players” to draw attention to the need for systemic reform in women’s soccer.
How do I get tickets? At this point, you’ll have to sell a kidney.
Is there pity in the Rose City? There is not.