Not a real trophy, you say?
At the start of this tournament, I said the same thing to myself. Sure, the winner of this tournament will be given a CONCACAF Champions League berth but that’s about all. Nobody is going to really take this tournament seriously, right? That may have been the mindset of some teams and players, but not the Timbers.
From the start Gio had the team playing attractive, attacking football and the goals came almost immediately. At the back, the big boys (Zuparic and Mabiala) were solid and our fullbacks (Villafana, Duvall and Bonilla) were outstanding. We saw a mature team that had the experience to make tournament life comfortable. In the end, it came down to the fact that we had far more experience in these situations than any of our opponents. Chara, Villafana, Valeri, Blanco and several others have been in the playoffs together and their comfort in knockout situations proved the deciding factor.
If we go back and take stock of the trophies in ancient and heralded clubs in Europe, we will likely find trophies from obscure one-off tournaments from decades ago. The circumstances surrounding the MLS is Back Tournament were as far from normal as we may ever see, but it is a special piece of history that the Timbers have taken home.
The game started with frenetic energy, both teams trying to get ahold of the ball and carve out chances but the tempo was too high for both sides and there was little soccer actually played for the opening minutes.
When things settled down, it was Orlando who got started with some possession first. The TImbers soaked up some pressure and were able to find outlets for counter-attacks that never led to anything until the 27th minute when we won a freekick some 35 yards from goal that was delivered exquisitely by, who else, El Maestro. Valeri dropped the ball right on the head of the big man, Larrys Mabiala who dove to connect with the header at the far post. 1-0. We would keep the lead for about ten minutes until the magic man for Orlando took over. Nani received the ball on the left flank and after feinting and making room for a cross, found the feet of Mauricio Pereira who had his initial shot blocked before bundling home the loose ball in the 38th minute.
It turns out that both our goals would come from center backs as the second, and winning goal, would be poked home by the big Croat, Dario Zuparic. In the 66th minute a corner kick fell to Eryk Williamson who cleverly faked and shifted the ball onto his right foot and fired a low shot that found the feet of Ebobisse who redirected into the path of Zuparic who finished through the legs of Nani.
The Timbers celebrated like it was a cup final because, hey, it was! With the victory the Timbers secure a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League and a significant prize purse. 2020 wasn’t the year/season anybody could have envisioned, but it didn’t seem to dampen the winning instincts of our team who left Orlando as champions, and deservedly so! Watch the action below and drop a comment with your own thoughts on the game and what you would like to see during the transfer window! #RCTID