By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx
Saturday, June 30th: Seattle Sounders 2-3 Portland Timbers
If you aren’t from around here, you’re missing out.
The rivalry between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders teams and supporters spans several decades and at least three leagues, depending on how we rate that odd semi-pro indoor era between NASL and USL. For a sports fan, there are few events more anxiety-producing, fraught with alternating bouts of exhilaration and despair, than games against your team’s most hated opponents. And when it is an away match, the potential for agony and ecstasy in equal measure is second to none.
For me, the MLS era Seattle away matches have particularly special meaning, because since our first MLS Seattle away match I have always been fortunate enough to attend with my daughter (picture from 2011, our first Seattle away together):
“MiniMe” has grown up as a Timbers supporter. From the time she was five years old wandering around the half-empty west side stands during games, begging me to take her to the Fred Meyer family deck bouncy house, to the present, where she is a 19-year-old junior looking for ways to stream matches from her college town of Tacoma, Washington, her support for the Timbers is bred in the bone.
No matter what is happening in my daughter’s busy world, she will see to it that, if it is at all possible, she will attend Cascadia Cup away matches in Seattle and Vancouver. (She is headed to a semester abroad in Spain next January, but her primary focus for renewing her passport this year has been to ensure that she has it in hand in time for the away game against the Vancouver Whitecaps later this season.)
As a Timbers supporter and a mother, there is nothing like heading into the stands with my daughter to support the team we love, win, lose, or draw.
Of course, I also have to acknowledge that, more often than not, we come away from Century Link Stadium with fewer than three points to show for our team’s efforts. Most times, coming into these games, a tie feels like a win. We hugged each other, shivering in the rain, when Futty Danso’s header gave our boys the equalizer and the point in 2011. We consoled each other when a seemingly rudderless group on the pitch got their butts handed to them in that same stadium in 2012.
The EPIC playoff win in Seattle in 2013 was the exception rather than the rule. I knew ALL of this coming into Saturday’s match, so, despite both teams’ current runs of form, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was cautiously optimistic, but prepared for Seattle away to once again be Seattle away. As it turned out, of course, we were not to be disappointed.
What can I say? After a first-half battle that gave both keepers a workout but nothing on the board, the second half provided PLENTY of excitement. Larrys Mabiala got the first point with his brilliant, downward-driven header of a Diego Valeri corner. It bounced cleanly into the left side of the net for the score at 48′:
Three minutes later, Victor Rodriguez answered, with a diving header to equalize for the Sounders at 51′:
Six minutes after THAT, Samuel Armenteros had a beauty of a goal, reminiscent of his goal v LAFC, turning inside against his defender and sending a clean strike with his left foot into the back of the net. Advantage: Timbers:
Eleven minutes later, Chad Marshall marked the Sounders’ second header of the match, equalizing for Seattle at 68′:
Finally, six minutes later, Mabiala had his SECOND header of the match, neatly putting away Valeri’s corner kick by skying over Chad Marshall at 74′. As it turned out, this last goal was the winner, and the Timbers came away with their first regular season Seattle away win in MLS history:
Savoring that first regular season win at Century Link was amazing. Getting to share it with my daughter and my brother? Priceless.
Whew. I’m tired all over again just typing that recap. A few quick notes now that I’ve had a couple of days to recover:
Depth? Oh my goodness yes. Let’s remember that, at the beginning of the season, we weren’t sure if we had the depth we needed to make it through tough stretches, whether the team faced injuries, busy weeks with Open Cup, etc. This match the team was successful without the likes of Sebastian Blanco, Fanendo Adi, David Guzman, and Liam Ridgewell, just to name a few players one might have assumed were automatic starters on the field at the start of the season. And of course Andy Polo will be back full time from international duty as well. Having this many quality players, and this many possible options for a variety of formations depending on the opposition, bodes well for the team’s chances headed into the second half of the season.
Valeri. ‘Nuf said. Diego Valeri was the hands-down favorite for MLS MVP last year in large part because of his scoring. When Adi went out for a stretch in 2017, Valeri did what the team needed him to do: score goals. Now that we have several scoring threats (including Mabiala!), Valeri continues to do whatever the team needs, which in this case is to feed other people. He had all three assists in the game, and continues to do whatever his team needs. The question is no longer if we build him a statue outside Providence Park: it is simply a question of when.
Armenteros is settling in nicely, thank you very much. You never know when fate will deal you a favorable hand. Diego Valeri, the best Plan B ever, is a Portland Timber in large part because our signing of Mix Diskerud fell through. Now, due to FIFA rules prohibiting his move to another team, we are fortunate enough to have landed a striker of Samuel Armenteros’ caliber on loan from Benevento. A formidable combination of speed, strength, a deadly left foot, and a striker’s hunger for the goal, Armenteros is quite the fortunate find for the club. Here’s hoping we get to keep him around for some time.
The Timbers are now unbeaten in twelve consecutive games including Open Cup matches. Next up: San Jose Earthquakes at Providence Park on Saturday. See you then!
Featured image of Armenteros: @TimbersFC
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