“You’re out. We’re in.”
Those were the words painted on the traveling Timbers Army post-game tifo high in the nosebleeds of the northeast corner of CenturyLink Field. Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla had just buried a game-winning penalty kick against a red-hot Seattle Sounders who were coming off one of the best second half seasons in league history, and he’d done it in their home.
The penalty conversion capped off a clinical super sub appearance by the Columbian attacker that also featured a crucial assist, an extra-time goal, and some dogged defending that helped keep things on an even keel as tired legs set in.
As Portland players and coaching staff swarmed the unlikely hero while he busted out his trademark dance moves at the edge of the pitch, it was hard not to draw parallels to Asprilla’s heroics against FC Dallas in the first leg of the 2015 Western Conference Championship. His difficult regular season was forgiven in an instant, and the Timbers had just etched the latest and greatest chapter in one of the league’s most heated rivalries, and in doing so, given Major League Soccer yet another playoff moment for the ages.
Three and a half hours south on I-5, Timbers faithful cheered out at watch parties in bars and living rooms around the city. As Twitter lit up with the #RCTID hashtag, fans instantly began comparing the tense finish of the two-leg series against Seattle to the now legendary 2015 knockout round match between the Timbers and Sporting Kansas City played right here in Portland.
That game had a similar back and forth flow, eventually giving way to a heart-stopping 11-round penalty kick shootout and earning the game the “Double Post” title after Sporting rookie Saad Abdul-Salaam’s shot rattled off both goal posts before magically bouncing out and giving the Timbers the opening they needed to pull through and go the distance.
The 2015 Championship season established the Timbers as a force to be reckoned with in the MLS and cemented head coach Caleb Porter as a hero here in the Rose City. So when Porter decided to move on from his position last November in the midst of a frantic offseason that also saw long-time Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe traded to Atlanta United, many fans were ready to call it the end of an era and brace for the inevitable rebuilding process.
One year later, under the dynamic and passionate leadership of newly minted coach Giovanni Savarese, the team finds themselves fighting for yet another Western Conference title. As fate would have it, the two-leg final presents a familiar foe: a Sporting Kansas City side anchored by a few of the same players and coaching staff who played a role in that “Double Post” classic.
In the wake of that memorable 2015 Championship run, the “Double Post Bar” sprung up off the Providence Park concourse behind section 109, serving up delicious Oregon beer in commemoration of the physics-defying moment that sparked the Timbers first-ever MLS championship run.
Providence Park is set to grow again during the forthcoming offseason, this time in the form of a massive eastside expansion that will add another 4,000 seats to the stadium. The finished product will create an enclosed canyon of noise in a stadium that already boasts one of the best atmospheres in the world. Win, lose, or draw, this first leg of the Western Conference Finals will be the final time the team takes the pitch before the transformation is complete. Expect that unrivaled atmosphere to be in full effect with 20,000 or so believers holding out for one more magic moment.