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Why I’m extraordinarily excited for this weekend’s Timbers and Thorns games

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The Timbers and Thorns are back this weekend. And gosh dang am I excited for it.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Portland Timbers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Normally, the content that runs day before Portland Timbers matchdays is some sort of tactical preview, which identifies the key things that Portland needs to do to overcome their opponent. Similar things are done before Portland Thorns matchdays, identifying key areas of focus for the team’s next game.

Well, this isn’t going to be that kind of pre-matchday article. It’s going to be something a wee bit different.

(If you’re curious what the tactical keys for the Timbers are tomorrow, they’re probably something along the lines of “Put pressure on Gianluca Busio, don’t let SKC’s wingers turn you into orange practice cones and don’t look like sacks of potatoes when defending set pieces.” For the Thorns, it’s probably “Turn all those great chances into great goals, don’t let Amy Rodriguez bully you and let Lindsey Horan be Lindsey Horan”.).

No, this is instead an ode to something that I am looking forward to more than almost anything else these past 15 months: this weekend’s soccer games in Portland, Oregon.

The Timbers and Thorns both have home matches this weekend, both against a team from Kansas City. And let me tell you that I. Am. Hyped. For them.

I am as excited for this weekend’s game as I have been for any soccer match in quite some while. And I would like nothing more than to share my numerous reasons for enthusiasm with you in the form of words in a blog post.

I suppose you can consider this my kind of personal “hype thread”, to borrow a term from the Timbers reddit. In any case, here are some of the biggest reasons I am excited as all hell for soccer in Soccer City this weekend.

We are (probably) going to be welcoming back Sebastian Blanco

I know, I know, we’ve been snakebit before. First we thought it was going to be the first CCL game. Then the MLS season opener. Then the Club America games. Then maybe the Seattle game. But all of those tentative promises ended in us unfortunately not seeing Sebastian Blanco’s name on the teamsheet.

Well, folks, we might actually see that this weekend:

If all reports, videos from training, and words from Giovanni Savarese are to be believed, Blanco will suit up on Saturday night.

He probably won’t start, and who knows what level of play he’ll be able to hit (it will be his first game in over nine months), but gosh dang am I excited to see Seba play again. He has been the heart and soul of the Timbers for basically three seasons now, and it truly felt like a big part of the team has been missing with him out.

Blanco has put in a ton of work to come back, and it appears he’s had to overcome some unanticipated setbacks as well. If there is any player on the team who lives, eats, and breathes soccer like it is literally their entire life, it’s Seba. I know it must have absolutely killed him to not be out there, and I think he is just as excited to step onto the field on Saturday as I am to watch him do it.

I fully expect the 20,000-ish strong crowd (more on them in a bit) to be at absolute full voice and roaring to welcome him back, and I can already anticipate the shivers I’m going to feel when it comes.

Lindsey Horan is playing at an absolute apex level

In case you needed another reminder, here it is: the Portland Thorns have quite literally world class players on their squad.

Many Thorns players have played at the game’s highest level, and some have quite literally been crowned world champions.

And in 2021, perhaps none have so far reached the heights that Lindsey Horan has.

My colleague Grant Little did an excellent job breaking down just how awesome Horan was a couple weeks ago in the Thorns’ win over Racing Louisville. It was a performance that was emblematic of the level of play Horan has achieved in her recent games, both for club and country.

For the Thorns, she has been an absolute terror all over the pitch, pressuring and winning the ball while also driving forward and collapsing opposing defenses like shoddy IKEA boxes. Her actions led to her notching an assist against Louisville the last time the Thorns played, and also scoring a “Yeah, I totally meant that” golazo of a cross goal:

For the national team, Horan proved herself through three straight games to be perhaps the best player on the pitch for the defending World Cup champions. And when you consider that roster is basically all players who are the best at their jobs, that’s saying a lot. I mean, just look at what she did a few days ago, when she casually hit a fantastic pass to set up an assist:

The reality is that when Horan takes the field on Sunday, Thorns fans will be watching one of the best midfielders in the world play. That knowledge in and of itself has me excited, and the fact that I get to actually witness it is just icing on top of an already fantastic cake.

It’s been a long international break (that’s felt a whole lot longer)

Not having any Portland Timbers or Portland Thorns soccer to watch kind of sucks. Yes, I know we are living through a plethora of soccer on our screens this summer, and we have had the chance to watch the USWNT contingent of Thorns players ball out for the past week.

But it just doesn’t quite have the same impact as watching our hometown teams play. That dramatic USMNT win over Mexico was wild and amazing, and I will always enjoy watching the women’s national team — the best United States’ national soccer team — go out and dominate everything in front of them, but that doesn’t just doesn’t scratch the same itch of watching them do it with my home team’s colors on their shirt.

Maybe it’s also because the world is still (slowly, cautiously, and nervously) just starting to creep out into “real life” again as vaccination rates rise, but overall this has felt like a long international break. And it has felt, honestly, just kind of empty a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I like watching the Euros and Copa America as much as the next fan, but it’s hard to get fully invested when I know that it’s not my team. Basically, what I’m saying is that there is a gaping hole in my heart that only the specific brand of PTFC soccer can fill.

And yes, I am being melodramatic. I am also very ready to watch Portland’s soccer teams play soccer in Portland again.

The weather will be absolutely gorgeous

I mean just look at that:

Be sure to hydrate and wear sunscreen out there, friends.

Providence Park will finally feel like Providence Park again

On Saturday and Sunday, a whole lot of us will be smiling. And that’s because there’s going to be a whole lot of us in Providence Park.

The Timbers and Thorns announced that starting this weekend, Providence Park will be open to 80% capacity — around 20,00 fans. Presuming attendance gets anywhere close to that, it will be the biggest crowd PP has hosted since early 2020, before ... all this.

I wrote a month ago how it felt to be in a limited capacity Providence Park for a rivalry game. As thrilling as that felt at times, nothing can compare to a full throated, jumping and clapping and singing, “one goal beyond” belting best that Portland’s stadium can provide. And while 20,000 isn’t fully stocked, it’s going to feel damn near full when that ball is kicked at kickoff.

Saturday and Sunday are going to feel absolutely electric. It will be loud. It will be energizing. It will probably be anxious. It will be a glorious chorus of noise, joy, and passion. It will be a feeling that the building has not felt in a long, long, time.

And I simply cannot wait to feel all of it again.