The electric Providence Park atmosphere. The epic Tifo. An uncommon win against Seattle at home. Winning the Cascadia Cup for the first time since 2017. Keeping the Sounders in tenth place. Sebastian Blanco being Sebastian bloody Blanco. The Timbers players celebrating with the Timbers Army.
This video released by the team the next day:
I could go on.
Whatever your favorite part was, Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese’s favorite part was that he saw his team show up and compete for a full 90 minutes. “I saw a team today that really wants to do things well, that really wants to move forward,” Savarese shared postgame. “I think the guys continued to fight through it, did the things that we worked on, were very disciplined. Credit to everybody.”
There was a clear increase in the desire and intensity from the Timbers on Friday compared to the low-energy performances they had put in over the past few games. It should be no surprise that the uptick came in a huge rivalry game, as Sebastian Blanco noted after the game. “[We understood] the importance of this game for people, for our fans, and we played this game as a final,” he shared. “So I’m very proud of my teammates, everybody worked very hard today. We deserve this win, a lot.”
It was a very deserved win for Portland, who dominated the majority of proceedings and probably deserved a more lopsided victory than what the final scoreline read. Portland won the expected goals race by almost 2.0 (aided by a penalty kick) according to MLS Soccer, and held Seattle to just two attempts on target the whole night.
Yes they were aided a bit by some fortunate crossbar physics at the end, but overall Savaraese is pleased with how his team defended. “We defended very well in the second half, with everything they threw at us,” he shared afterward. “Very content with the performance today.”
That performance netted Portland not just three crucial points in their uphill battle for playoffs, but also their first piece of silverware this year: the Cascadia Cup. The regional supporters’ trophy is something the Timbers haven’t claimed since 2017, and by virtue of the victory it now resides with the Timbers Army, adorned with a green & white scarf.
The impact of the achievement is not lost on the players. “It’s very important. I’ve been here for six years, so I understand,” Blanco, who scored the winner and has made a habit of menacing Seattle in recent years, shared. “What it means for the people, for the fans, it’s very important. It was a long time that we didn’t beat Seattle at home.”
The importance wasn’t lost on the coach, either. As Blanco and the rest of the players took to the capo stand in front of the North End of Providence Park to celebrate with those fans, Savarese hung back on the field. He stood contently, beaming up at his team. “I’m so proud of them. When they achieve things like they did today, it’s amazing,” he said of the moment. “I have joy seeing them celebrate.”
Despite the emotions of the win, despite the trophy lift, despite rubber-stamping regular season dominance over the Sounders, Savarese and the players know that this isn’t the end— or at least, that it shouldn’t be.
“A very special night, but we can enjoy it a little bit, but then we have to understand this is not our final goal because the goal is to qualify [for the playoffs],” Savarese declared after the game. He and his team secured a win that keeps their playoff hopes alive, but those hopes are still faint at this point. The Timbers will need to continue to collect points— with wins, not just draws— if they still want to keep their goal of the playoffs alive.
Blanco understood the stakes, and understands that this needs to be how the team needs to look moving forward. “We knew that today if we don’t win this game, we are in big trouble,” he shared. “We have a very difficult game looking forward, but if we play like we played today, with the same energy, we can beat any team.”
Savarese echoed that sentiment, calling on his team to continue the energy they brought on Friday. “As long as the guys during the week continue to practice the way we did this past week, we will be prepared,” he shared. “We need to prepare very well and this is the time for us to make sure that everyone is as professional as they can be if we want to make a run again. Hopefully first, make the playoffs. That’s the first goal. One match at a time.”
The Timbers achieved something great Friday night. It tasted tasted oh so sweet to the fans, and once again breathed some life into their season. In order to ensure that this it isn’t the high point of the season, they need to maintain the focus they showed then for the next six games.
But as Gio and Seba said, they know they can bring that intensity and compete with any team in the league. The key to keeping that intensity now, as Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla put best, is simple: “Working. Working, and staying together, and united and confident.”