The Portland Timbers recently took down Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference Finals allowing them to reach the MLS Cup Final for the second time in four years. The current group of players is much different from the one that lifted the cup in 2015, and even has a new Head Coach in Gio Savarese.
Gio has experienced plenty of success coaching in recent years, but after a shaky start in his first season as an MLS manager this year, fans were beginning to worry. One night in particular, Timbers fans reached their low point in the season. Early in the season, Portland was struggling, and they were taking on Orlando City SC. After taking a 2-0 lead, they looked like they were ready to take home their first win of the season.
Instead, they collapsed. An 80th-minute goal from Chris Mueller got things started for the Lions. A couple of minutes later, Sacha Kljestan equalized from the penalty spot. Now, Portland fans were frustrated as they were forced to settle for a tie in a game that should have put them on the right path after a tough start to the season.
The worst was yet to come. In the 87th-minute, Dom Dwyer gave Orlando their third goal of the night which ended up being the match winner. Portland fans and players alike were forced to go to sleep knowing their team was yet to win a game this season.
This was the turning point in Portland’s season. The team would follow that loss with nearly four months of unbeaten play. To go unbeaten for such a long period of time in MLS is almost unheard of. The league is very competitive and any team can lose on any given day. That isn’t just a phrase I’m tossing around, it’s true.
Instead, Coach Savarese rallied his troops and made sure a loss similar to the one they experienced in Orlando never happened again. In fact, he made sure any loss at all didn’t happen for quite some time. His boys were ready for the rest of the season, and whatever happened in the locker room after the game in Orlando was definitely the best thing that happened to Portland this season.
So now, after taking down Cascadia rivals, the Seattle Sounders, and regular season Western Conference Champions, Sporting Kansas City, Portland are looking for another cup. This time they’ll have to overcome one of the most dangerous teams in the history of the league, Atlanta United.
Portland are led by 2017 MLS MVP, Diego Valeri. The man from Argentina has been a key player for the club for years and was a massive piece in their Cup-winning season in 2015. His task this time is a little different, but simply feeling his presence this weekend will give the rest of his team confidence they can leave Atlanta with gold medals around their neck.
If you need any more reason to tune into the 2018 MLS Cup this weekend, read this article about Atlanta United’s special season.