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Why the 2020 MLS Cup Final is Star Wars

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Help me, Caleb Porter. You’re my only hope.

Photo Credit: Central Ohio 501st, via https://www.columbuscrewsc.com/gallery/star-wars-night

We all watched it. Earlier this week, we all saw the Seattle Sounders do that dumb thing they do and miraculously find a way to win the Western Conference. Again. And so we in Timbers land have to endure an MLS Cup final with Seattle in it. Again.

But this time, rather than Toronto FC (again), Seattle will be battling some familiar faces. The Columbus Crew, coached by former Portland Timbers boss Caleb Porter and featuring our old friend Darlington Nagbe (and Fanendo Adi as backup striker!), stand in the path of Seattle repeating.

These conflation of themes — an evil dynasty imposing their power, a once powerful but nearly diminished force rising to meet them, a band of plucky upstarts being the last of bastion of hope — made me think of something. And then this Twitter exchange with Richard Farley cemented it:

Seattle is the Empire, Caleb Porter and the Crew are the Rebel Alliance, and MLS Cup 2020 is gosh dang Star Wars.

Brian Schmetzer is Palpatine, and the Seattle Sounders are the Dark Side.

Richard truly hit it on the head with the comparison. Just like the main villain of the original and prequel trilogy (and somehow the sequel one too?), Schmetzer just keeps coming back. And he keeps winning in annoying fashion.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at San Jose Earthquakes
I mean... the resemblance is kinda there if you squint.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Right when you think they’re dead, he keeps the Sounders coming back. Whether it’s the penalty shootout in 2016, the shock defeat of LAFC last year, or the miraculous comeback against Minnesota on Monday, they somehow find a way to return and win. So just like being thrown down a reactor shaft and “somehow” returning, Schmetzer seems inevitable.

In addition, his team winning four out of the last six Western Conference Championships, winning two MLS Cups, and being labeled an (ugh) dynasty by many around the league feels akin to establishing an evil empire — at least to us Timbers fans. Like it or not, Seattle is one of the dominant powers in MLS — if not the most.

The comparisons don’t stop there. As Richard also pointed out, Jordan Morris plays one hell of an Anakin Skywalker. Young talent, destined for greatness, but chooses to forsake hope and join the bad guys. And that brings about an era of pain and suffering to those of us who would rather see balance brought to MLS. Instead, because of Morris, Schmetzer, and the rest of the dark side, we have to deal with watching Portland’s most hated rival in the final again and again.

To all of us in Portland, watching Seattle attain so much success really feels like seeing hope die, to thunderous applause. And now we have to bear the weight of them being on the verge of success yet again. So while we all hate it, Seattle is closing in on yet another title. Unless, of course, an equally powerful force rises to meet it...

Caleb Porter is Columbus’ New Hope.

Atlanta United FC v Columbus Crew SC
“I remember when the Portland Timbers used to win MLS Cups. Before the dark times, before the Sounders”
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Harken back with me to a long time ago — the bygone year of 2018. Then Columbus Crew majority owner Anthony Precourt was set to relocate the team to Austin, breaking the hearts of their loyal fanbase. It was a dark time for both soccer fans in Ohio, and around the league.

Then a group of grassroots Crew supporters all rose up en masse in an effort to keep their beloved team home, and thus the remarkable #SaveTheCrew moment was born. It ended in external support mounting to the point where the team finally found new ownership, with the Haslam family and Pete Edwards buying out Precourt, and keeping the team in Ohio.

You can read a full explanation of the incredible (and ongoing) work of those passionate fans here. It is an amazing story of true grassroots support causing real change in North America, and is well worth your time.

At the end of the saga, the Crew were staying in Columbus, but their head coach, Gregg Berhalter, was heading to the United States’ Men’s National Team as their new head coach. The Crew needed a coach, and who did the team turn to help lift them in their new era? A name that Timbers’ fans hadn’t heard in a long time — Caleb Porter.

After being out of coaching for nearly two years, Porter, a man with renowned acclaim and roots in Ohio, resurfaced from exile. As he did, he has quickly lead the Crew back to atop the Eastern Conference, and doing so in classic “Porterball” style.

It’s hard to see the themes of the #SaveTheCrew tale and ensuing hiring of Porter and not think at least a bit of the Rebel Alliance. Columbus were once a great power in MLS, like the Old Republic in a galaxy far, far away, but they collapsed and were nearly annihilated. But they survived, saved themselves, and have turned into a band of plucky upstarts. In order to come out of an era of the dark they turned to a legendary figure from the past in Porter.

Now, this upstart band of rebels who faced down the entire league and won is now facing a grave threat in the form of Seattle bearing down on them, just like the Death Star approaching from behind Yavin Prime...

The Crew team is making their final attack run.

It is poetic that Porter is the last man that can save Timbers’ faithful from more heartbreak. Ohio is his home, and Columbus is also where he made his first MLS Cup appearance on that blessed day back in 2015. He’s raised the trophy at MAPFRE Stadium before, so it is only fitting that it is there that he would attempt to do so again.

For Portland fans, it’s also very fitting it’s him facing down the Sounders. It was no secret how fired up Porter got whenever he played Seattle, and he was the one who ushered the Timbers into an era of true competition with their rivals up north, even delivering what would become the first of a couple signature playoff victories against the Sounders.

An old figure from the past, recalled from exile, and now facing his old foe once again. All he needs is a long brown robe and you can basically call him Old Ben Kenobi. He even brought along with him a rising natural talent that he has been watching from afar- Darlington Nagbe. And just as Luke Skywalker was for the Rebels in his x-wing, Nagbe may very well be the key to Columbus’ success due to his role in the midfield.

New England Revolution v Columbus Crew SC: Eastern Conference Final - MLS Cup Playoffs
Use the force, Darlington... let go, and actually dribble into the final third.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

For us Timbers fans, MLS Cup 2020 very much feels like the forces of light and dark colliding. We have had to deal with now five long years of having to watch Seattle play in cup final after cup final, and at times it really can feel like the oppressive weight of an empire weighing down on us. For a year, we held out some hope that Seattle only outpaced Portland in the number of stars in their jerseys by one. Now, we face the grim prospect of them gaining more ground and cementing their status as a bona fide dynasty.

That’s something we just can’t watch happen. All of our hope rests in Caleb Porter and his Rebel Alliance, and they are just as fitting of a foe as any to face down the undying Schmetzer and his Empire. The history, both in the coach and in the fanbase, makes them worthy rivals to topple Seattle’s grip on glory.

All of our eyes turn towards our former head coach to see if he can deliver more victory. On the same ground he stood five years ago, we watch to see if Porter can finally bring balance to the Force league, and save Timbers fans from another year of emotional torment.

Help us, Caleb Porter. You’re our only hope.