As our very own Sam Svilar pointed out just yesterday, it’s been far too long since the Portland Timbers have played a soccer match. Sure, there has been tons of great international soccer — from the Euros to U.S. National Team play — but it just doesn’t feel quite the same as watching the lads in green and gold go at it. That feeling of watching your favorite domestic club play is something that just can’t be replaced.
It is with great pleasure that I can officially say that the Timbers are back, and they’re just as excited to play as we are to watch them. Well, I’m not sure if that’s actually true, considering that Timbers fans will be able to come out en masse to watch the Timbers with Providence Park going up to 80% capacity. The energy isn’t just going to be different because it’s the first Timbers game in a while — it’s going to be different because the Timbers Army will be strongest it’s been in more than a year.
“I’m someone who feeds off the crow, and that emotion in the stadium really affects me and spurs me on,” Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark said. “So it was a challenge when you don’t have it. It took a lot of the fun out of the game. I think it became more like work last year.”
The beautiful game is called a game for a reason. It’s something that’s meant to be enjoyed, not slogged through. Portland’s last match before the break — a 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union — certainly felt like a slog, even if it was the only negative result in a three-game stretch where the Timbers were down nine players. It was clear Portland needed some rest.
“I think you just take what’s given to you,” Clark said. “You don’t want to be necessarily playing the game when you don’t have a game that weekend, if that makes sense. You want to take that time to rest and do other things.”
Rest was what the Timbers needed more than anything with the rash of injuries that has plagued them this year. Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese acknowledged that that was one of the main goals of this rest period. And it may have paid off, because here’s some good news: Sebastian Blanco may be back.
“There’s a good possibility that he will be part of this match coming this weekend,” Savarese said. “He’s at a point right now that we’re getting close to making him be part of the bench.”
Blanco was supposed to return as early as when the Timbers were playing in Concacaf Champions League, but that didn’t come to fruition due to a muscle injury that he suffered. There shouldn’t be any rush to bring him back — you don’t force your best player to come back even a second before he’s absolutely ready to go — but just the possibility of Seba playing some MLS matches again should make Timbers fans giddy.
While Savarese didn’t go to deep into specifics on other injuries — he did mention that Jaroslaw Niezgoda’s condition has improved and he’s started doing activities with the full team — he did say that players should be back this weekend. Losing Felipe Mora and Yimmi Chara due to international call ups hurts, but having some players back from injury should help.
“Hopefully the whole roster will be back to being available, but in the meantime we have been able to recover some of the players, and it’s going to be very important for us in order to stay competitive,” Savarese said. “We’re not at full strength, but we feel stronger from the standpoint that we’re going to have some guys back.”
It won’t just be the players that are back: The energy that radiates through Providence Park from the Timbers Army and around 20,000 fans will make it an experience that’s different than anything the Timbers have known in a while. Clark said during the press conference on Thursday that when fans are at Providence Park, it becomes a real spectacle as opposed to just another game. I’m ready to experience that spectacle again.