John Nyen on his beloved Timbers.
The glowing yellow leaves and migrating birds tell the tail.
Tiny cold smudges of frost let you know that summer is over and Fall is in full swing. This should also tell you something as a MLS fan. That is, that the regular season is coming to a close. All the struggle, conflict, good play, bad play is heading to its ultimate end, and beginning the hopeful rebirth into play-offs for those of us lucky enough to follow teams with that verve.
For the Portland Timbers we come to the penultimate game. Eight months worth of work comes down to a rescheduled match against DC United and the finale against Real Salt Lake. The task for this non-expansion-expansion side is to take a moribund away record and perform a simple trick, winning their final two matches on the road.
With the recent defeat from Houston that reduced the playoff odds to a scant 5%, it would be easy for many Timbers fans to sink into an area of finality. However, fans are made of tougher stuff than this; and with a history littered with seminal moments such as “The Gordon Chainsaw Massacre”, the “Sunshine goal”, and the “Sunflower Goal” there is no reason to quit believing in this team.
The flutter of memories detail the many amazing and painful moments from this year.
There was the pre-season game against the I-5 nemesis with busloads of Timbers fans giving the Sounders a taste of what would come. There were 500 people traveling down to Colorado for the opener to watch the team play in gusty conditions, and the overjoyed sensation of watching Kenny Cooper fire in the first Timbers goal in MLS.
There was the rainy Chicago opener, which was filled to the brim with passion, play and drama as the team finally came to gel in front of the crowd. The two Seattle matches would provide book-ends to a woeful streak of games, however there was Jack Jewsbury serving up a header to Futty Danso in the pouring rain with the crowd falling silent save for a patch of Timbers fans cheering and twirling scarves.
The Seattle game at home I consider myself lucky to have attended. With the spontaneous yelling out on the sidewalk for the US Women and their comeback, to the line of people forming 48 hrs before the game (then getting kicked out, coming back, forming again, getting kicked out, coming back and starting a rough 20 hrs before the game). One of the fantastic experiences of my Timbers season was standing in the tunnel before the game between section 107 and 106, simply listening to the chants echo off the walls and watching everyone stream by in their green and gold. Even though the result wasn’t what the Portland fans wanted, it is hard for me to think of anything else from that game except the weight of a Cascadia flag in my hand, a beer under the seat, hugging random strangers when the Timbers scored, and feeling at home. There was the pride at watching the 107ist implement Operation Pitch Invasion, Make a Wish, and their other Charity/Community based programs. Recently, there was the announcement that the Timbers had a 97% season ticket retention and a 5000 person waiting list. There were bad losses and great victories, huge games, controversies, and quite a bit of drama both on the field and off it.
However, it all comes back to these next two games. With the Houston result, the ability to control their own destiny is out of the Timbers hand. Ultimately though Portland can control winning and losing; and they need to win. To set this up accurately…. so does DC United. With a devastating loss to the Chicago Fire in the books (If you haven’t seen the recap video of this you need to watch it. You can see all the goals with zero editing in 5 minutes), DC needs this game just as much as the Timbers. All of these reasons lead to the potential of a very exciting (although probably cagey first half) game for Portland and DC on Wednesday evening. The fact remains that the easiest way into the playoffs for the Timbers or DC United is to win the next two games, and have the Red Bulls lose or tie against Philadelphia. With Thierry Henry suspended for that game, the possibility exists for an improbably entry for one of the two teams.
So it comes down to Wednesday night, with weather straight out of a movie forecast for the evening. Two teams with desperate energy playing for a shot at extending their season just a bit longer.