The Timbers locker room is always upbeat after a big win. Voices rise, music blares, and guys are more likely to smile, laugh and even jest aloud. The mood is light.
So how about the atmosphere in the same space on Wednesday, after the Major League Soccer All-Stars knocked off German powerhouse Bayern Munich 2-1 in the MLS All-Star Game at Providence Park? Well, if a regular-season win by PTFC creates a buzz, last night's result felt more like someone booted a soccer ball into a hornets nest.
“The boys are happy,” smiled Real Salt Lake keeper (and Timbers Army folk hero) Nick Rimando after Landon Donovan and Bradley Wright-Phillips scored goals and Portland coach Caleb Porter led an MLS squad to victory in what's already being called the "best All-Star Game ever."
Sure, Bayern—a squad littered with World Cup talent—are in their preseason. And yes, they only fielded their top talent—including Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller and Tobias Schweinsteiger—in the waning moments. But as reporters jockeyed for position to grab sound from the best players in the league the Timbers call home, the sense of accomplishment was palpable.
"I'm proud to be a part of this league," said Donovan, who grabbed the MLS patch on his jersey after scoring the go-ahead goal in an MVP performance. "For many years, those of us that were in this league were sort of looked down upon for staying here and playing here. This was a big moment for our league."
And a big week for Portland, which received rave reviews from every player, MLS exec, and talking head who descended on Soccer City, USA for what turned into a triumphant night for American soccer.
"It's the one and only night that I can like Portland," said Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin. "They didn't boo me too loud, so I was proud about that."
And while Timbers Army wasn't its usual full-throated self (they're not MLS Army, after all) and the only thing resembling tifo had a slicker, corporate vibe, there are a number of memorable moments:
• After the MLS side subbed in 10 fresh players at halftime—a shrewd move by Porter that essentially allowed two cohesive squads to form in the way-too-short two days of training leading up to the match—the PTFC coach waited until the 47th minute to sub out Arsenal legend (and current New York Red Bull) Thierry Henry, who exited the pitch to a standing ovation.
• Wright-Phillips answered a clinical first-half strike by Robert Lewandowski with a golazo of his own, breaking free and scoring on a left-footed blast from 20 yards out in the 51st.
• In the 70th, Portland's own Diego Valeri sent a picture-perfect cross into the box for Donovan, who chested it down, ditched a Bayern defender and found the back of the net. Before the ball was put back into play, Porter allowed Donovan to essentially drop the mic, subbing the American soccer legend out and allowing the 14-time All Star to exit the pitch to an ovation of his own.
• After the match, Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola wagged his finger and waved off Porter, refusing to shake hands with his counterpart. Both sides downplayed the incident, and there was reportedly a handshake in the bowels of Providence Park after tempers cooled.
To his credit, Guardiola said he hoped for a rematch with MLS. "I hope they invite us next year so we can try and to make the revenge," he said. "We will do it; I hope our invitation is coming."
Something tells me Portland would be happy to host.