This column normally comes out on Tuesdays at noon, but I’m putting it out a bit early, since this Tuesday, at three in the afternoon, the Portland Timbers play their first competitive game of the year, a CONCACAF Champions League road game against CD Marathon in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Yes, I’m excited as hell, and, yes, I have some predictions.
1) First prediction: the Starting XI.
Van Rankin – Mabiala – Zuparic – Bravo
D Chara – Paredes
Y Chara – Valeri – Asprilla
Only a couple surprises here, but neither of them too surprising, if you’ve been paying attention. First minor surprise, Cristhian Paredes has started every game this preseason, so I think he’ll once again get the start over Eryk Williamson. I don’t really like this, since I’m #TeamEryk, but Gio knows the team better than I do, so I’ll trust his judgment.
Second minor surprise, Jeremy Ebobisse’s got a bad hammy and didn’t travel with the team, and I’m not sure Sebastian Blanco’s surgically-repaired ACL is ready to go a full 90, so I’m giving Dairon Asprilla the start on the wing. I’m not sure if this game qualifies as pre- or post-season, but if it does, go ahead and bet your children’s college money on Dairon scoring a goal. The man really is a living meme.
2) Next prediction: some very CONCACAF-y things will go down.
It already happened the day the team arrived, when their bus broke down.
But that’s just the start. I predict the field will be kinda shitty, certainly with big clods of dirt scattered here and there, perhaps a few puddles of water, too, and hopefully an animal or two invading the pitch mid-game.
Even better, I predict some world-class shithousing from CD Marathon. Shin kicks, ankle rakes, late tackles, elbows to the kidneys. Hell, we may even get a purple nurple. This is CONCACAF. Purple nurples are totally allowed. Just ask Jozy Altidore.
A player on El Salvador's soccer team twisted Jozy Altidore's nipple.— SB Nation (@SBNation) July 20, 2017
Then he bit him. pic.twitter.com/BRMBjps4Nx
The only question is whether the Timbers will shithouse right back. I’m kinda hoping they do. Is that wrong? Is it wrong that I want a shoving match at midfield before the game even starts? Is it wrong that I want Sebastian Blanco to start a fight with the entire Marathon bench, coaches included?
Wrong or right, something’s gonna happen. It’s CONCACAF.
3) Next prediction: the final score will be 1-1.
Yes, this would be a disappointing result, but it’s as confident as I’m willing to be. Marathon’s in the middle of their season, so we know they’re in better shape than us. They’ve also got home field advantage, so they’ll be better able to avoid the sinkholes, landmines, and feral cats. And from what I hear, they play a very high pressing style, which is always a bit scary, but is especially so when you’re still working off the preseason rust. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Timbers look really bad in the opening 45 and go into halftime down 1-0.
Things will improve, though, and I’ve got Dairon scoring just a couple minutes into the second half, heading in a Yimmi Chara cross. I’ve got Blanco coming in around the 75th minute and looking good, but not great. And I’ve got 12 minutes of second half stoppage time. (I mean, the purple nurple incident alone will take around seven minutes to sort out. And don’t get me started on the pitch-invading dog chasing the pitch-invading cat. That’s five minutes, easy. Really 12 minutes of stoppage time is generous. Can I go back and raise that to 15?)
4) I’ve got a question for all of you. What would you rather win: CONCACAF Champions League, MLS Cup, the Supporters Shield, the US Open Cup, or the Cascadia Cup? If the 2021 Portland Timbers could only win one of those, which would you choose?
Personally, I’m leaning toward the Supporters Shield. Maybe it’s because the Timbers have already won MLS Cup, so I’ve already gotten that wonderful feeling. A second cup would be nice, sure, but it wouldn’t have the same level of excitement.
The Shield, though? We’ve never been terribly close to winning the Shield, so that would be thrilling. Even better, it wouldn’t be thrilling for just one day, it would be thrilling for weeks, maybe even months. If we get to August and the Timbers are near the top of the league standings, I think we’d all get caught up in the excitement, wondering if we could keep up the fine play, keep banging out wins until the end of the season. That’s, what, three months or excitement? And a full seven months of winning soccer? I’d love to have seven months of being near the top of the league. I’ll take all of that you’ve got.
5) Here’s my current trophy power rankings, based entirely on how excited I’d be if the 2021 Timbers won it.
- Supporter’s Shield
- MLS Cup
- US Open Cup
- Cascadia Cup
This order could change, of course. As soon as we win a Shield, it will probably drop a few places and something else will get the top spot.
6) All around the world, when soccer clubs win multiple trophies, you hear about that team winning “the double,” or maybe even “the treble.” Here’s my question: has anyone ever won “the quadruple?” How about “the quintuple?” Because I think the Timbers could do it.
If we win CCL, then the US Open Cup, then the Supporters Shield, then MLS Cup, that’s the quadruple, is it not? Throw in the Cascadia Cup, and I’m calling it the goddamn quintuple. And, yes, you have to include the word “goddamn.” If you win five cups in a single year, you get to be vulgar. In fact, you have to be vulgar. Scott Van Pelt will be required by law to say “the goddamn quintuple” on Sportscenter. This is Soccer City USA, motherfuckers.