Last night, the Portland Timbers once again gave up a goal in extra time to a Los Angeles-based soccer team. This time it didn’t matter, however, because Portland had already secured their multigoal lead over the LA Galaxy en route to a 5-2 victory. This club looked a lot more like the Timbers team that had accumulated five wins in a row than the one who had dropped points in their last three matches.
It’s great that the team looks this way for a few reasons, but let’s start with the reason I just mentioned: Disappointment. If you’ve been paying any attention at all to Portland these past couple weeks, then you know they dropped four key points in their two matches before this and also lost to Real Salt Lake to start the three-game skid. They weren’t playing bad soccer necessarily; it was just only good soccer for about 89 minutes or so and catastrophic results in that extra minute or so.
“Definitely we felt disappointed in the past few matches,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We felt we did enough to be able to get three points, but as you know, in soccer it’s not about how you perform. It is exactly what are you able to get out of the game.”
Boy, did they get a lot out of this one. First, the win officially earned them a spot in the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, something they could have clinched also with a tie. Second, since they won this match, they’re now tied for second in the Western Conference standings in points with the Seattle Sounders (although they’re still technically third, especially with the report from Sam Stejkal this morning confirming points per game will determine the playoffs). It’s a position the Timbers always expected to be in.
Not sure when it was updated, but this is from MLS competition guidelines. As expected, PPG will determine the playoffs:— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) October 29, 2020
"In the event that all 26 teams do not end the season with the same number of matches played, qualification... will be determined by... points per game."
“It is sure for now, but I was sure that we will be here in the playoffs,” said Jaroslaw Niezgoda, who had a brace and an assist on the night. “And it’s obvious that it was our goal and not only playing in playoffs, we want to do something more this year because I know, I see that we can do something more and we have potential.”
It’s fitting that the confident response came from an attacking player, especially since the attack was quality on Wednesday. For the most part, it’s been like that all season, but against a hapless Galaxy squad they were absolutely dominant. Three of the teams first five goals came in the first 30 minutes of the match. The other two goals were mesmerizing moments of class, with Eryk Williamson putting on a lovely technical display, and Andy Polo having the golazo of the week so far.
It just solidified even more Portland’s reputation as an offensive force. They’re tied for the league-lead in goals scored at 44, have four players with seven goals or more this year, and have scored five goals or more three times this season. The 44 goals are more than they scored in three different full 34-game seasons (2011, 2012, and 2015), and the three five-goal games this year are equivalent to the amount the club have had in their entire MLS tenure before 2020 (Statman was on fire yesterday with the quick hits). When this team is playing with confidence, they are dangerous — and they are definitely feeling it right now.
Through 20 games, the Timbers have scored 44 goals.— Mike Donovan (@TheMikeDonovan) October 29, 2020
That is more than the club scored in three different full 34-game seasons-
2015 (wait, what?!?!?!) #RCTID
“I feel very happy, and it’s coming back to that confidence,” said Yimmi Chara, who had three assists on the night. “All the team has that confidence.”
Yes, this win seems to have gotten Portland out of the funk they had fallen into recently. Maybe that was due to just a difficult schedule, or maybe the Timbers had just simply started to run out of juice. But after clinching a playoff spot last night, it feels safe to say that the Timbers got their swagger back.