Portland's most magical weekend—well perhaps its most family friendly magical weekend— was the perfect setting for a Timbers team to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps, last year's league champions and the only team who has beaten the Timbers this year.
I always like games against Vancouver because of the rivalry, the history, and the away support who make the trip down from Canada. The old adage 'enemies on the pitch, friends at the pub' has always rung true with the 'Caps fans, win or lose they're the opposite of Shittle fans: polite and mostly good humored. After all, we share one very important point: we fucking hate Seattle.
(p.s. I accidentally posted this into the past, so now I'm fixing it)
Vancouver has enjoyed an injury riddled season thus far—four starting players didn't make the trip to PDX at all—and the Timbers were returning to PGE after earning a win and a tie in Puerto Rico, not an easy feat.
That imbalance became obvious within a few minutes of the game. Johan Claesson, not the speediest person on the field, managed to sprint past two defenders to go one on one with goalkeeper Jay Nolly. Nolly dove for the ball but grabbed Claesson's ankle and took him down just outside the box. The Ref whistled for a Penalty Kick, which was the right call, but only cautioned Nolly, which was the wrong call. It should have been a straight red card for two reasons: the last man rule, and handling the ball outside the box, if he even got a finger on it. Take your pick. Pore finished the PK, and the Timbers were up 1-0 in the 7th minute.
They never looked back.
The Timbers dominated possession, locked down on defense (the few lapses were hardly heart-stopping), and Farber and Pore gave the Whitecaps wing defenders and midfielders fits. They simply could not be stopped. George Josten, a young Gonzaga grad in his first year with the Timbers, got his first goal for the Green and White, pickpocketing a Caps defender 30 yards from goal and streaking through a shower of body checks and elbows to slot the ball in the right corner. Josten then ran around in circles for a minute and then was mobbed by his teammates. He sure was happy about netting his first goal in PGE. His goal celebration was somewhere between happy puppy and Ralph Wiggum.
The second half should have netted the Timbers at least two more goals: Pore was too cute on a two on one breakaway, passing to Keita (which was deflected) instead of taking an open shot, and later Keita scored but had it called back for an inadvertent handball. Taka Suzuki almost threaded a needle with a low shot on a turnaround across the goal mouth—he missed by mere inches.
This was a decisive victory in front of 9,081 happy fans (a soft number, to my eyes). The Timbers were firing on all cylinders, the Timbers Army sang the night away, it was a magical night. I am no longer a sliver worried about any other team in the USL. If this squad, with this energy and skill shows up for every match, there's no doubt in my mind: We're gonna win the league.
Sunday, the Timbers dispatched the Club America Reserves, 4-1. The bench (and a few U-23 players) got a run-out, and the lethargic touring Mexican team managed only a few shots on goal in front of about 5,000. Friendlies are fun, but not very interesting. The only thing I take from this match is that our Starting 11 are backed up by 11 players who should have been our starting 11 last year. That makes me a happy Timbers fan.
Next the timbers face Montreal at PGE Park on Thursday, June 4th, then the Kitsap Pumas in Bremerton for a US Open Cup qualifying match in a High School stadium. Ghetto, yes. Welcome to early round qualifying for the only Nationwide pro-am adult soccer tournament in the US. Trust me, it's awesome, and someday, it'll be important.