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11 Moments that Led the Portland Timbers to the Brink of a Title

Tuesday, December 01, 2015


The Portland Timbers are on their way to their first-ever MLS Cup finals after a 2-2 draw in Dallas on Sunday that earned them a 5-3 aggregate win after their 3-1 victory in Portland last week. In the final, the Timbers will travel to Eastern Conference champion Columbus Crew for a one-game, winner-take-all match next Sunday. While Timbers fans everywhere count down the minutes until kickoff this Sunday, let’s take a look back at 11 key moments from this season that helped land the Timbers on the cusp of Portland’s first male professional sports championship since 1977:

1.  Kwarasey magic earns Timbers 1-0 road win against NYCFC:

Dairon Asprilla’s first MLS goal came in the 79th minute, but it was Adam Kwarasey’s 89th minute heroic save that preserved the win and earned the Timbers their first road win of the season. The victory came just after an ugly 2-0 home loss to Orlando City, and provided some much-needed breathing room for Portland as they waited for Diego Valeri and Will Johnson to return from injury.

2. Valeri bender gives Portland road win against Montreal:

The Timbers had won only twice in their first 9 games, and comparisons to the nightmare 2014 campaign were already beginning. But in his first start since tearing his ACL in the final regular season game of 2014 against Dallas, Valeri showed Portland exactly what they had been missing, bending a picture-perfect goal just out of the reach of the Montreal keeper and earning the Timbers a 2-1 win.

3. Captain Jack saves the day against Colorado:

The Timbers were on the road against the worst side in the Western Conference, but Sam Cronin’s 90th minute rocket volley looked to earn the Rapids a 1-1 draw. But Jack Jewsbury was not hearing any of that and, after a beautiful toe poke from Ishmael Yartey, planted the ball in the back of the net on what was very nearly the final kick of the game to earn 3 incredibly valuable points for the Timbers.  

4. Seattle melts down against Portland at Starfire in the Open Cup:

The Timbers and Sounders played a round-of-32 US Open Cup match against their Cascadia rivals. While the game had no direct impact on the MLS standings, it's effects would be felt for months to come, particularly for the Sounders. Seattle’s Obafemi Martins left in the 86th minute with an injury that would hamper him for months to come and Seattle would earn three separate red cards in a 3-1 loss to Portland that changed the trajectory of both teams, sending the Sounders into a tailspin that they arguably never truly recovered from.

5. Adi channels Timber Joey as Portland smashes Seattle:

Beating the Sounders is always among the highlights of a Portland season, even when Seattle fields a decidedly second-choice lineup as they did here. Fanendo Adi scored a brace in the second half, and celebrated the second in style as he leaped up to borrow Timber Joey's chainsaw and celebrate with the Timbers Army as the Timbers rolled over Seattle 4-1.  

6. Captain Jack saves the day...again:

A week after the victory against Seattle, Portland hosted a red-hot San Jose team that had not lost in their previous eight games. A tight, defensive game saw San Jose bunker down attempting to earn the draw in the second half. It looked like a frustrated Portland was going to give away critical points at home when Jack Jewsbury flicked a deflection just over the goalie in the 91st minute to once again give Portland all three points.

7. Borchers breaks Real Salt Lake's heart:

At this point, given how well he has fit in, it's hard to believe that Nat Borchers has only been a member of the Timbers for one season. But prior to joining up with Portland this past offseason, Borchers spent seven years manning the back for Real Salt Lake, which made his 95th minute headed goal to steal all three points for the Timbers especially bittersweet for him. Borchers may have had conflicted feelings about it, but Timbers fans were ecstatic.

8. Porter switches to a single-pivot against Real Salt Lake:

Two months after Borchers' winner, Portland was back in Salt Lake in the midst of a free fall. Portland had won one of their last five matches, and found themselves on the playoff bubble. Will Johnson was injured and Portland looked to be in dire straights in the defensive midfield. So Caleb Porter switched from his beloved double-pivot formation that he had run to such success since coming to Portland to a single-pivot, with Chara alone in the defensive midfield. All of a sudden, Darlington Nagbe and Adi were unleashed, and the Timbers season would never be the same.

9. 25 minutes changes everything in Los Angeles:

Traveling to Los Angeles to face the Galaxy had been a veritable house of horrors for Portland since joining MLS in 2010. The Timbers had never won in LA, and were facing a loaded Galaxy team featuring Gio Dos Santos, Steven Gerrard, and reigning MVP Robbie Keane, whose goal in the 35th minute left many Timbers fans wondering if the playoffs were still possible. Then, in a span of 25 minutes in the second half, Portland exploded for five goals, including two from Adi and a leaping header from Diego Chara. Portland would go on to win 5-2, and has not lost since.

10. Not one, not two, but THREE posts!

In all fairness, nearly this entire list could have been filled with nothing but moments from Portland's amazing shootout win over Sporting Kansas City. But the moments that no Timbers fan will ever forget are the two penalty kicks Kansas City had to win the game, only for Kevin Ellis' to bound directly off the post, and Saad Abdul-Salaam's potential winner to somehow find both posts before falling harmlessly outside the goal. The Timbers have since rode the momentum from that first dramatic victory all the way to the brink of their first championship.

11. Borchers' block saves the day in Frisco:

This list had to be taken to 11 solely to incorporate the most important defensive play of the season by the Bearded Wonder. FC Dallas had all the momentum in the second leg after scoring twice in five minutes to bring them within one of the Timbers on aggregate. Throwing everything forward for a third, in the 92nd minute the ball somehow fell to Blas Pérez wide open six feet from the goal. But just as the ball left his foot, Borchers' left foot flew in at the final second to knock the ball away from the net. Three minutes later, Lucas Melano would seal the game and the Timbers were on their way to their first MLS Cup final.

So there you have it, Rose City; the 11 moments that defined the Portland Timbers' season. What would you have included?  Kwarasey denying Mulholland at Rio Tinto? Adi's brace to earn the win at Columbus? Win or lose on Sunday, it's been a magical year for the Timbers and their supporters; one filled with moments and memories that will be looked back on fondly for years to come.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


Related Slideshow: Championship Bound: The Portland Timbers’ Best 10 Wins This Season

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Portland Timbers 3, FC Dallas 1

Saturday, April 4 at Providence Park

Everyone has to start somewhere. The Timbers started here, and we will too. 

Portland notched their first win of the year after going winless in their first four contests of the regular season with a win over eventual Western Conference finals opponent FC Dallas. 

The teams traded first-half goals before Maximiliano Urruti found the back of the net in the game's 62nd minute. It would not be the final time these two teams squared off in a crucial match-up.

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Portland Timbers 1, Chicago Fire 0

Saturday, August 7 at Providence Park

They didn’t know it at the time, but this win was the start of a wild late-season run for the Timbers. Portland charged from out of contention to earn a playoff spot in a matter of weeks.

They would get that run started against Chicago. Keeper Adam Kwarasey earned one of his league-leading _ shutouts. Fernando Adi, the team’s leading scorer, provided the game’s lone goal.

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Portland Timbers 2, Houston Dynamo 0

Saturday, June 20 at Providence Park

This decisive victory was the culmination of an epic turnaround. This victory over conference rival Houston was the final W in a season-best five game winning streak for the Timbers.

Kwarasey and the defense once again came up large in this one, while a pair of Argentines, Maximiliano Urruti and Gaston Fernandez, provided the firepower.

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Portland Timbers 2, Vancouver Whitecaps 0

Sunday, November 8 at BC Place Stadium

The Timbers’ cinderella story almost ended in heartbreak in the second round of the MLS Playoffs. Coming into this one, the Timbers needed to win outright after drawing with Vancouver in the fist leg of the matchup.

The Timbers rose to the occasion with an impressive shutout victory. Sri struck once again for the men in green, as did Diego Chara.

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Portland Timbers 1, Real Salt Lake 0

Wednesday, October 14 at Tinitio Stadium

Portland took this game and never looked back. It was the first of three straight wins that capped the Timbers’ regular season and earned them a spot in the playoffs. They haven’t lost since.

It was a defensive struggle, with no goals to be found early on. Adi finally broke the tie with a penalty kick after Salt Lake’s Jamison Olave earned a red card for an aggressive tackle on Lucas Melano as he broke into the penalty area.

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Portland Timbers 1, D.C. United 0

Wednesday, May 27 at Providence Park

This win turned around the whole season. It was only Portland’s third win in the season’s first 13 games. They would go on to win the next four in a row during the squad’s longest regular season winning streak of the season.

Urruti struck early, finding the back of the net in the game’s fifth minute. It would be all the Timbers needed, as they held on tight for a shutout victory.

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Portland Timbers 2, Sporting Kansas City 2 (7-6 a.e.t.)

Thursday, October 29 at Providence Park

This was certainly the most exciting win of the season. The Timbers and Sporting Kansas City battled to a draw during the first 110 minutes of the game, forcing penalty kicks.

Even the tie-breaker needed extra rounds to find a victor. Portland would finally earn a match-up against Vancouver when keeper Kwarasey buried his own try from the penalty dot before stopping a shot to move on to the conference final.

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Timbers 3, FC Dallas 1

Sunday, November 22 at Providence Park

This was the big one. Maybe Sunday’s game finalized Portland’s ticket to the MLS Cup against the Columbus Crew, but this game set the Timbers up for success.

Goals from Liam Ridgewell, Dairon Asprilla and Nat Borchers powered the Timbers as they took control of the Western Conference crown in their own stadium.

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Portland Timbers 3, Colorado Rapids 1

Sunday October 25 at Providence Park

In the weeks before this match-up, the Timbers were on the outside looking in of the MLS Playoffs. The team caught fire down the stretch however, winning two straight and giving themselves a chance to earn a playoff birth in front of their own fans.

They didn’t let the opportunity pass them by. The Timbers poured in four goals and left no doubt they would be a team not to be trifled with in the playoffs. That reputation is even more cemented now.

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Portland Timbers 2, Columbus Crew 1

Saturday, September 25 at Mapfre Stadium

Timber fans will be pointing to this game all week as proof that they can topple the Crew in Columbus on Sunday. They earned an important mid-season result at Mapfre Stadium earlier this year and will look to repeat history this weekend.

Adi’s start shined brightest in this one. He scored two goals, one in each half, and out played Crew striker Kei Kamara, the league’s leading scorer this season. Adi, and the rest of the Timbers, will need to be at their best on Sunday at 4 PM in the MLS Cup on ESPN.


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