Are You Not Entertained?

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Cascadia Cup–Rivals and Brethren

Saturday, April 22: 2-1 Win

Any game against Vancouver Whitecaps takes on special significance. We have been rivals since long before our MLS days. Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver have songs and chants specifically designed to taunt each other that we sing only during Cascadia Cup matches. We have a supporter-created trophy (that predates our arrivals in MLS) that is awarded to the Cascadia team who wins the most points among us in the regular season. We even have a traditional song sung at the end of every match that has its origins in USL Portland-Vancouver days. The rivalry is real.

At the same time, off the pitch, we know that we have kindred spirits in our Cascadian brethren to the north. We recognize the turmoil and hardship created by changes in our country’s travel policies, changes which have some Canadian supporters unable and/or unwilling to cross the border to attend a match. Some worried about their ability to cross; others, in solidarity with supporters who may not travel, also elected to stay home, some for the first time ever for an MLS Cascadia Cup match.

We know how difficult this decision was, and the Timbers Army wanted to show their support for our rival supporters to the north, painting a front banner with a message of optimism from the Peace Arch at the US-Canada border crossing we both often pass through for matches against each other:

Now, about the match….

Darlington Nagbe

I have typed and deleted five different paragraphs on Nagbe, each with a different take. Unbelievably beautiful touches on the ball. Absolutely one of the nicest humans off the pitch, a role model. Inspirational coming-of-age story,  from leaving war-torn Liberia as an infant to finding citizenship and success on the pitch in the U.S. Frustratingly unselfish on the pitch, leading to far fewer goals than you’d expect of a player of his caliber and to questions about whether he will ever reach his true potential.

And then we have moments like this.

All of the frustration I feel when he takes the extra pass wide instead of going into the box himself, or when he sends it safely back to the fullback instead of through to his midfield–all of it evaporates in a moment like this.  In the 18th minute, David Guzmán gave Nagbe the ball in the middle of the pitch. Nagbe coolly evaded first Matías Laba and then Kendall Waston, working away from them wide to the right, then somehow kept his balance while firing a rocket from beyond the 18 that tagged the underside of the crossbar and found its way home for the first score of the match. The goal uplifted the spirits of the team and the crowd. We all felt the shift in momentum.

And, even more special, Nagbe clearly felt it too. He is so often an unassuming, selfless, NICE guy, that his goal celebration marked something different for Nagbe. More of THIS, please.

A Change of Pace

We had a lot of changes in the lineup for this one. Fanendo Adi was serving a one game suspension for a tangle up in the match the week before, so he was out. Sebastian Blanco was recovering from a tweak earlier in the week so he was on the bench. Vytautas Andriuškevičius was healthy and back in the lineup, as was returning captain and center back Liam Ridgewell. And Jake Gleeson, suffering from a hip flexor injury, was replaced by able backup Jeff Attinella, acquired in the offseason from Real Salt Lake via Minnesota United. (Thanks, by the way, RSL; from Ian Joy to Will Johnson to Nat Borchers, you always send us excellent players.)

But the biggest changes to our look this game were probably Adi’s and Blanco’s replacements, Darren Mattocks and Dairon Asprilla. Mattocks and Asprilla are both speed burners, and provided some blistering pace up front. It’s not necessarily a lineup I would want week after week, but I do appreciate that our depth allows for such strong replacements in the starting XI. And it was particularly sweet to see Mattocks score what would eventually be the game winner against his old squad, in a beautiful team goal involving Guzmán, Nagbe, and Diego Valeri:

Get well soon, Maestro

Ridgewell may be the captain, but the heart and soul of the team is midfielder Diego Valeri. And when Valeri was stretchered off late in the match we all held our breath. It was a tremendous relief to see him standing in the locker room after the match taking questions from interviewers. Get well soon, Maestro; the world is a brighter place when you’re on the field.

Random Hot Takes

Alvas Powell: I am tired of the “That’s So Powell” show. He is clearly fast and talented. He loves to overlap on the wing and he is usually quite capable of locking down the defense in the right corner. But I am done with his poor decision making. Classic Powell: win a difficult possession battle in the corner, save the day, then pass it directly to the other team. And Christian Bolaños, a veteran midfielder with over 70 appearances for the Costa Rican national team, most definitely had Powell’s number. He caught Powell out of position several times, most notably in the 52nd minute and again in the 60th, and both times Powell fouled him as a result. Costly mistakes, the second of which resulted in the penalty kick that got Vancouver on the board.

Fredy Montero is still very good at soccer. As a Timbers fan I am already predisposed to dislike him, but I can admit that Fredy is very good at what he does. He is a poacher, floating up top, biding his time, almost turning invisible, then seizing his moment. I do not look forward to playing him again…and again, this year.

The game lasts 90 minutes, guys. Once again, we had the game firmly in hand in the first half, but instead of putting it away we limped to the finish. While that may work against a weak Vancouver squad at Providence Park, it most definitely will not be enough for the likes of FC Dallas. I sincerely hope we figure out how to finish out as strong as we start before Saturday.

Next week, we’re on the road in Dallas. See you there!

Featured image courtesy: b.fssta.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx

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