Prior to the Timbers' season opener in March, team owner Merritt Paulson used a slightly modified version of a Timbers Army chant to ask the question on every fan's mind.
"We'll sing for you, Timbers," he tweeted on March 3. "Will you finish the fight?"
The answer appears to be a resounding "YES."
Portland once again proved it's not a team to be counted out on Saturday: The Timbers rallied twice to shock a large swath of soccer-loving British Columbia and earn a 2-2 draw against rival Vancouver, leveling the playing field in the race for the Cascadia Cup.
Down a goal and a man after a dubious straight-red-card sent Futty Danso to the locker room, Jose "Trencito" Valencia
caught chested down a Hail Mary pass from Will Johnson, calmly cut back and scored his first career MLS goal to kick Portland's unbeaten streak ahead to a historic 10 straight matches. An improbable result? Sure, but with these 2013 Timbers, improbability is slowly becoming more impossible to define.
“This team just seems to have that ‘never quit, refuse to lose’ [attitude]," said coach Caleb Porter postgame. "And you hope you can kind of harness it in a team.
"Some teams just never have it, but this team has it."
You simply couldn't say the same for the 2011 and 2012 Timbers. Road deficits seemed hopeless to overcome. Fans spent the final 15 minutes of matches searching for positives—moral victories to cling to. Now supporters spend that same time expecting something special to happen.
"You fight and you try because we’ve got a thousand fans that sit up in the stands who expect nothing less," said Johnson, who scored on a penalty kick in the 52nd to level the match. "We recognize we’ve got to fight even if it doesn’t look like there’s any chance and the task looks impossible."
Video highlights and official recap after the jump.
VANCOUVER, B.C.—Midfielder Will Johnson recorded a goal and an assist and forward Jose Valencia scored his first career MLS goal to help the Portland Timbers to a come-from-behind 2-2 draw against Vancouver Whitecaps FC before 19,823 fans at BC Place on Saturday night, extending Portland’s MLS-club record unbeaten streak to 10 games.
Trailing 2-1 following a goal from Vancouver midfielder Gershon Koffie in the 54th minute, Portland suffered a further setback when defender Futty Danso was issued a straight red card in the 81st minute after he and Vancouver forward Camilo Sanvezzo got tangled up as the two players raced for a loose ball in the Timbers’ defensive third. Playing with 10 men, Portland found the game-tying goal in the 84th minute. Gaining possession near midfield, Johnson sent a long pass over the top of the Vancouver defense to Valencia at the top of the penalty box. Valencia, making his first appearance since a 1-1 draw against Seattle Sounders FC on March 16, settled the ball in stride and outmaneuvered a Vancouver defender before slotting the equalizer past Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Brad Knighton.
The Timbers have earned a result in five of six matches after conceding the opening goal. They became just the second team this season to earn a tie or win after receiving a red card while trailing in a match, extending their road unbeaten streak to seven games (including the 2012 season).
Johnson factored in both of Portland’s goals, attempted a team-high four shots and became the first Timbers player to record a goal in consecutive matches this season. The team captain scored his career-high fifth goal of the season, converting a game-tying penalty kick in 52nd minute with a low shot inside the left post. Johnson drew the penalty when his shot from the left side of the penalty box struck the arm of Vancouver defender Andy O’Brien. The spot kick was Portland’s second of the season and first since Johnson converted a penalty in a comeback, 2-2 draw at Colorado on March 30.
Portland (4-1-7, 19pts) remains in second place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of both Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy, who each play on Sunday. The Timbers have earned a league-high seven draws this season and equaled their road goal-scoring total compared to the team’s first two MLS seasons. Portland recorded 10 goals in 17 road games in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Following Saturday’s match, the Timbers have scored 10 goals in six road games this season.
Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts made two saves, while Portland recorded 10 or more shots for the fifth consecutive match (and third straight road game). Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Knighton made two saves in his first appearance of the 2013 MLS season and Camilo attempted a game-high five shots as Vancouver (3-4-5, 13pts) earned a point in its first Cascadia Cup match of the season.
Vancouver claimed the lead against the run of play in the 24th minute on Camilo’s third goal of the season. After earning a free kick at the top of the penalty box, the Brazilian forward fired a shot over the defensive wall and into the upper right corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead. Camilo helped create Vancouver’s second goal, shielding the ball inside the penalty box before laying off a pass to Koffie for a right-footed strike past Ricketts. Several minutes before the opening goal, Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri had a shot from an acute angle inside the box deflected away by Knighton and forward Rodney Wallace had a strong header saved in front of the goal. Wallace’s effort was one of 16 shots for the Timbers during the contest.
The Timbers continue a three-match road stretch on Saturday, May 25, against D.C. United at RFK Stadium; kickoff is 4 p.m. (Pacific). The matchup will be televised live on ROOT SPORTS, with local radio broadcasts available on 750 The Game and in Spanish on La Pantera 940AM.