Below is my list of the Portland Timbers’ ten greatest games. Before you start reading, there are a few things you should know.
First of all, only MLS games were considered. The sheer number of games the Timbers have played at other levels, along with the lack of highlights, quotes, and first-hand experience I had with many of those games made it impossible to include them. That’s a list for someone else to do.
Some of the games on here were no-brainers, others required more thought. There are nine home games and just one away game. Darlington Nagbe and Jack Jewsbury both started eight, Futty Danso and Kalif Alhassan seven.
There are four games against the Sounders, two against the Galaxy, and four against other MLS teams.
There are two games from 2011, two from 2012, and six from 2013. There are none from 2014, which should tell you something about how that season went.
I went back and forth on the order – especially numbers two and one. I settled on my rankings the way you see them now because while game number two had more importance, number one was the much better game.
It’s a trip down memory lane – a little holiday nostalgia, if you will – but it’s also a reminder: Each time you go to the park, you hope to see one of these games. It’s always in the back of your mind. Maybe, just maybe, this will be a great game.
Without further ado, here is my list of the Portland Timbers’ ten best.
1. Portland Timbers 1, Seattle Sounders 0: A Derby For The Ages
October 13th, 2013
Ricketts, Jewsbury, Futty, Kah, Harrington, Chara, W. Johnson (C), Alhassan, Nagbe, Valencia, Urruti
The wins had started to pile up for the Portland Timbers in September and early October as it became clear that the Timbers were headed for their first ever trip to the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Meanwhile, the once formidable Seattle Sounders, with the league’s newest and most polarizing star Clint Dempsey, were floundering.
This was Seattle’s only trip to Portland during the 2013 regular season, both teams didn’t like each other, and both teams desperately wanted to win. It was as big a game as the Cascadia Cup had ever seen.
The drama started with the team news. Portland’s Diego Valeri hadn’t passed a late fitness test, meaning Kalif Alhassan played, and with Rodney Wallace away with Costa Rica, Jose Valencia started on the wing.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, meanwhile, dropped his starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, and replaced him with Marcus Hahnemann, who hadn’t played regularly for almost five years.
In part because of the Dempsey signing, in part because of the sudden competitiveness of the two sides, animosity was at an all-time high. The Timbers Army’s spendthrift, three-part tifo had the punch-line, "money can’t buy me love."
The Timbers were confident, but also, clearly, nervous – and they were all over the place in the first ten minutes as Seattle pinged the ball around the Portland penalty area.
Donovan Ricketts, in the midst of an MLS Goalkeeper Of The Year winning season, tipped a powerful header from Lamar Neagle onto the bar, and moments later, Dempsey slammed a free header from three yards of that same crossbar.
That calmed the Timbers down, and as the first half settled in, the Timbers started to take control with long spells of possession and menace from two players particularly: Alhassan and Darlington Nagbe.
As the game approached half-time, Jack Jewsbury sent in a long, teasing cross that Hahnemann started to come out to catch before changing his mind and retreating into the goalmouth. The half-clearance that his defense could muster dropped to Alhassan, who smashed his low shot into the back of the net.
His celebration was one of the worst in Timbers history, but that didn’t matter. Portland had the lead.
As Seattle couldn’t find a goal in the second half, they began to unravel.
In truth, the tone for the game had been set in the opening minutes, when Diego Chara’s open-field tackle on Clint Dempsey separated the US captain’s shoulder and went without a card.
In the 72nd minute, Nagbe was felled on a fast-break by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. While referee Hilario Grajeda was booking Hurtado, Will Johnson and Osvaldo Alonso went racing after the loose ball, because, well they’re both maniacs.
Alonso slide-tackled Johnson, who was rightly incensed, and got in Alonso’s face. Alonso’s reaction, then, was to elbow Johnson in the throat.
Half the stadium saw it. Caleb Porter saw it. And most importantly, the assistant linesman – who Michael Harrington, who also saw it, went racing after to plead the Timbers’ case – saw it as well.
After a quick consultation with Grejeda, Alonso was sent off. From there, Seattle pressed the self-destruct button. Alonso, Adam Moffat, Dempsey and others all went charging after the AR. Mauro Rosales came off the bench to get his two cents in, as did Schmid, all while Alonso had to be dragged off the field by Leo Gonzalez.
It was the most beautiful of sights.
Still, though, there was bound to be a final chance in the game, and it fell to Steve Zakuani in stoppage time. A knocked-down cross fell to the future Timber, and he smashed a volley from six yards that would have gone in, if not for Pa Freaking Kah flying at the ball, deflecting it onto the crossbar. The ball spun to Andy Rose, but his attempt on goal was cleared off the line by Jewsbury.
When the final whistle sounder, Porter turned to the crowd pumping his fists. It was Portland’s sweetest ever victory. Seattle had disgraced themselves, and the soccer gods had punished them for it.
What was great about that team, and this win? Part of it was the sense of destiny that kicked in as Jewsbury cleared Zakuani’s final volley off the line. But the magic was more in the camaraderie, the chemistry, and the togetherness that the 2013 Timbers lived for.
Go back and listen to Caleb Porter’s press conference after this game. It was the happiest he’s ever been post-match as the Timbers head coach. Everyone was bought in. And he said it right off the top – he knew that his team would win. He just knew.
That, in one of the most fractious, angry, high-stakes derbies ever played, was the pinnacle of the Portland Timbers’ MLS existence.
2. Portland Timbers 3, Seattle Sounders 2: Fish Gutted
November 7th, 2013
Ricketts, Jewsbury, Futty, Kah, Harrington, Chara, W. Johnson (C), Wallace, Valeri, Nagbe, R. Johnson
The Timbers were never going to lose this game. It didn’t make winning it any less sweet.
Coming in off of a spectacular run to win the Western Conference and a defeat of Seattle, in Seattle, in the first leg of their first ever playoff series, with the Sounders’ mentally and physically holding on by a very thin thread, Portland had all the confidence in the world on a cold Thursday night at Providence Park.
The Sounders were reeling. Sigi Schmid had once again changed goalkeepers, reinserting Michael Gspurning in place of Marcus Hahnemann, and had bizzarly chosen Shalrie Joesph to play up top alongside Eddie Johnson.
Both Obafemi Martins, who was banged up, and Mauro Rosales were left out of the Sounders team.
Portland had their eleven set and ready to go. The Timbers didn’t just feel like they had a better coach, better stars, a better stadium, a better field, and better fans. They knew it.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the most tense this game ever really was was in the first 30 seconds when DeAndre Yedlin scampered ten yards past where a ball went out of bounds deep in Sounders territory before unleashing a throw-in.
From there, the Timbers sunk their teeth in. Rodney Wallace had two early chances, pushing a clean look from ten yards wide on the slick turf, and being blocked off by Gspurning on a bouncing ball in the box that was the result of Diego Chara deflecting a clearance.
In the 27th minute, after another piece of terrific inter-play, Jack Jewsbury popped a ball up onto the outstretched arm of Djimi Traore. Jewsbury went flying towards the referee with his arms raised, but Hilario Grajeda missed it.
It was up to his assistant linesman, who took one beat, then another, and then another, before running down the touchline towards the byline to signal the penalty.
Will Johnson dispatched it with relish and unleashed another wild celebration.
Portland’s second goal was a thing of beauty – a tic-tac combination through the midfield and on the edge of the area between Jewsbury, Wallace, and then Valeri, who took the ball charging into the area and sent a sliding finish past Gspurning to make it 2-0, and 4-1 on aggregate.
But the best moment in the second half was when Futty Danso, charging into the penalty area on a solo run, headed home a cross from Rodney Wallace – not coincidentally, it was the Timbers’ third goal of the year on a quick free kick, and it was the old college #9 Futty who profited.
But it was Pa Modou Kah who pulled his fellow Gambian out of the celebration, and the two center-backs sprinted down the field towards Donovan Ricketts for a group hug in front of the Timbers Army.
It was pure and unbridled joy. The greatest of great moments.
That was as good as it got in 2014. As good as its ever gotten for the Portland Timbers, really. The Great Hug of Gambia.
Seattle pulled two goals back to give the Timbers a nervy finish, but the game was really never as close as it felt. The Sounders would have needed two more just to tie the score on aggregate, and three more goals to win it outright.
When the final whistle sounded, the Army danced long into the night. It was hardly a competitive game. The fish weren’t the story. The Timbers were.
3. Portland Timbers 2, LA Galaxy 1: "The Loudest The Old Stadium Has Ever Been"
July 14th, 2013
Ricketts, Jewsbury (C), Jean-Baptiste, Futty, Harrington, Zemanski, Chara, Nagbe, Valeri, Alhassan, R. Johnson
In the beginning of August, when the LA Galaxy came calling for the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field, there were cracks beginning to show in the Timbers’ armor.
Portland was coming off of a frustrating 1-0 loss in Columbus that saw Pa Kah get sent off in the fifth minute with the Timbers having already conceded. A brave effort wasn’t enough to get a point, and when Crew manager Robert Warzycha said that it’s difficult to play up a man, Mikael Silvestre wondered on Twitter whether the Crew had been playing up a man all year.
Luckily for Portland, LA was also staggering. With Landon Donovan gone on international duty, Carlo Cudicini wearing out his welcome in goal, and Robbie Rogersstruggling to find his groove in midfield, the Galaxy weren’t in any better possession than the Timbers.
Both teams wanted to win. That much was clear from the get-go.
And both teams came to play. That much was clear too.
There was a reason that The Guardian would later call the match, to paraphrase, "the best spectacle in MLS history." Both teams were committed to playing soccer the right way – moving the ball around, at tempo, letting skill players make plays, and, in this case, defending shakily.
In the 17th minute, Marcelo Sarvas, who was unmarked, headed a deflected cross in to make it 1-0. It was the first goal the Timbers had conceded at home in six MLS games, eight in all competitions.
The drama was just starting. After Rogers hacked down Nagbe outside of the box, the Timbers executed a clinical quick free-kick which Nagbe slid in front for Ryan Johnsonto tap home as the Galaxy protested for offsides and the NBC broadcast scrambled to get out of its replay of the foul.
At 1-1, Donovan Ricketts would be called upon multiple times throughout the rest of the game. After Omar Gonzalez hit the post with a header, Ricketts produced an absolutely sublime series of saves to deny a free kick from Juninho and a breakaway opportunity for Gyasi Zardes.
Before the game, Bruce Arena had called Ricketts the best goalkeeper in the history of MLS. It took me back to a US Soccer writer telling me that Ricketts was the best goalkeeper CONCACAF had ever produced.
Portland had their chances too in the second half, including a Nagbe shot that produced a sterling double-save from Cudicini after he blocked Ryan Johnson’s rebound attempt.
Ricketts was again called upon to deny Zardes in the 84th minute, and it appeared as the match was headed for a well-fought draw. Little did we know what was to about to happen.
In the last minute of stoppage time, Portland won a corner. Diego Valeri swung in a beauty, and Andrew Jean-Baptiste spun off of his mark, got his head to the ball, and scored the latest goal in team history.
Portland Timbers 2, LA Galaxy 1.
The roar from the crowd at Jeld-Wen Field was deafening. The stadium shook. It continued to sway all the way until full-time a minute later, when a furious Arena engaged Caleb Porter in a shouting match that saw the two jawing all the way across the field where the match referees were standing.
Jean-Baptiste’s celebration – ripping off his shirt – was nowhere near as good as Freddy Piquionne’s. The substitute striker grabbed the ball, and with his tongue out and Ben Zemanski in tow, kicked it high into the Timbers Army.
It was a Hollywood finish against Hollywood’s team.
The loudest the old stadium has ever been.
4. Portland Timbers 3, New York Red Bulls 3: The Porter Era Begins
March 3rd, 2013
Ricketts, Miller, Silvestre, Jean-Baptiste, Harrington, W. Johnson (C), Chara, Alhassan, Nagbe, Valeri, R. Johnson
There were signs before opening day of the 2013 season against the New York Red Bulls at Jeld-Wen Field that nothing was the same for the Portland Timbers.
Flashes of brilliance in preseason, exciting offseason acquisitions, and a clear and poised presence from new head coach Caleb Porter suggested that there might not be a long rebuilding and recovery process from the failed John Spencer era.
There was a great anticipation, not just for another home opener on ESPN, but for the next phase of Portland Timbers soccer.
And it couldn’t have started worse.
Eight minutes into the game, Donovan Ricketts mishandled a back-pass from Mikael Silvestre, and Fabian Espindola pounced to give New York the lead.
But that’s not what you remembered from this game. You remembered the feeling that you got very early on that things were very different. In less than five minutes, the Timbers were level.
A terrific passing move led to Diego Valeri’s circus-act first goal in a Timbers uniform, which was followed up by a celebration almost as intricate as his dance through the New York defense.
Both teams were off to the races for a thrilling game.
In the 23rd minute, Silvestre misplayed a long ball which Espindola again took advantage of for his second goal. It was 3-1 just moments later, as the circus at the back this time resulted in center-back Jamison Olave running free in the goalmouth for a tap-in.
But there was just something about the Timbers – especially their attack – that suggested the game was far from over. There was the purpose and intricacy of play that completely new to Timbers fans. Not coincidentally, the Timbers were fielding their most talented lineup at any level of soccer in club history. They just needed to click into high-gear.
The galvanizing moment, as it turned out, was the double whammy of Andrew Jean-Baptiste being bear-hugged to the turf in the penalty area as his shot was cleared off the line with no penalty call forthcoming.
From there, it was a shooting gallery. Diego Valeri’s scorcher was only parried down in front of the net to Darlington Nagbe – more intense than he’d ever been before as a pro – who cleaned up the rebound to make it 3-2.
The Timbers were pouring players forward in search of the equalizer. It was a zoo. And when the equalizer came, courtesy of a Jose Valencia cross that hit Olave and went in, there was hardly a celebration. Portland wanted a fourth.
In the end, they almost got it with a lung-busting run and cross from Silvestre, who after his only bad half as a Timber was already rehabilitating his image, that Ryan Johnson took on a bicycle kick that went just wide.
It finished 3-3, but it really just went down as a hell of a game.
There was giddiness in the potency and skill of the Timbers’ attack and a confidence that great things were just around the corner.
It was soccer on a level we’d never seen before. On that night, the Portland Timbers started playing a new game.
5. Portland Timbers 4, Chicago Fire 2: Soccer City, USA
April 14th, 2011
Gleeson, Purdy, Brunner, Futty, Wallace, Marcelin, Jewsbury (C), Hall, Alhassan, Perlaza, Cooper
Although the Portland Timbers played their first MLS game in Commerce City, Colorado – in an all-green strip, no less – and proceeded to lose to Toronto and then draw New England on the east coast, their MLS journey really started when the Timbers hosted their first ever game in April 2011 against the Chicago Fire.
It was Soccer City, USA’s coming out party, and the grand unveiling had everything. The revamped PGE Park, renamed Jeld-Wen Field, sparkled – that sleek new west side of the stadium jiving with the familiar, cramped old concourses that harkened all the way to the first days of Civic Stadium.
It was raining – pouring, actually – and the Timbers Army rocked the stadium with their entrance 107 minutes before kickoff and a spirited a cappella national anthem. There wasn’t a party in Portland so much as a jungle, and as the US Soccer public was just taking in the spectacle for the first time, it was intoxicating.
There was only one question: Would the team provide the game the scene deserved? The Timbers were having a rough go of it. They’d gotten a measly one point from three games and scored only two goals.
The defense was shaky. Diego Chara hadn’t arrived yet, and the team was having difficulty keeping possession and stringing together passes. Troy Perkins was still out, and third-string goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was in the net for the biggest game in franchise history. It didn’t look promising.
But from the opening whistle, the Timbers were unrecognizable. Incisive, eager, and threatening, they looked like they could score every time they came down the field.
And after just ten minutes, Kenny Cooper headed home a Jack Jewsbury corner – but it was inexplicably ruled out for a phantom offense. Instead, the opener would come in the 29th minute as Jorge Perlaza bounded onto a Kalif Alhassan pass, cut back in the area with the help of the slick surface, and fired home the first goal in the history of the new stadium.
It would get better ten minutes later, when a partially cleared free-kick fell to Rodney Wallace who laced in a volley from twenty yards to make it 2-0. By the time Sean Johnson spilled a cross allowing Perlaza to tap in his second, it was a Portland coronation.
Things got serious quickly though, when an effervescent Marco Pappa pulled the game back to 3-2 with a superb effort after an own goal from Eric Brunner made it 3-1. But the game was sealed shut when Portland scrambled home their fourth goal in front of the Timbers Army on an almighty goalmouth scramble led by Futty Danso.
John Spencer was giddy. His post-game press conference was a thing of beauty. Gavin Wilkinson, unfortunately enough, had to issue an apology after being caught on national television screaming at the officials from behind the advertising boards.
All in all, it was a perfect night – and the best thing was the knowledge that there’d be many more nights like it to follow.
6. Portland Timbers 2, Seattle Sounders 1: Spencer’s Last Stand
June 24th, 2012
Perkins, Jewsbury (C), Horst, Futty, Smith, Chara, Alhassan, Nagbe, Songo’o, Fucito, Boyd
John Spencer must have known he was living on borrowed time when the Seattle Sounders came calling on a beautiful June day in Portland with England losing on penalties to Italy in Euro 2012.
The Timbers’ season had already turned sour, with more and more mediocre players being signed and thrown into the mix with no direction or long-term plan. With Spencer, it was all an emotional appeal – a fiery want, a need to win.
And was endearing, but not destined to be successful very often. But in rivalry games like this one, that fire that Spencer instilled made for a hell of a show.
After the dust cleared, six yellow cards and two red ones had been handed out, the Timbers had gotten two of their best ever goal celebrations, and, at last, their first ever win over the Sounders. It was to be Spencer’s final hurrah.
Portland came out with their hair on fire after the unveiling of the Clive Charles tifo that stands as the most impressive in MLS history – although there were hearts in mouths everywhere around the stadium when the right side of the tifo snagged and ripped while being rigged up.
Just minutes into the game, David Horst sent an open header screaming off the crossbar. But it didn’t take long for Portland to take the lead, with Kris Boyd tapping in a Steven Smith cross and pointing and laughing at the Seattle fans in the away end.
Horst made amends – this time directing his header into the turf and past Seattle, now Portland, goalkeeper Andrew Weber – to make it 2-0 in the 25th minute.
Tempers flared in the second half, as Kalif Alhassan – having himself a vintage performance – was crocked and forced to come off with injuries.
The loss of Alhassan came at a crucial time, as Seattle was pulling themselves back into the game. Osvaldo Alonso had forced consecutive saves out of Troy Perkins, but a fantastic solo effort by Eddie Johnson made it 2-1 with 35 minutes to go.
But as Seattle struggled to find the equalizer, their frustrations – stop me if this sounds familiar, apparently became impossible to contain.
Freddy Montero’s push of David Horst – who went down much easier and with much less contact that Will Johnson did when Alonso elbowed him in the throat two years later – sparked a massive brawl in the 90th minute.
Boyd stuck a finger in Montero’s face, Futty and Eddie Johnson shared a shoving match, and when the dust settled, Montero was sent off, as was Portland substitute Lovel Palmer.
After the resulting eight minutes of stoppage time, Portland had their victory, which Futty celebrated lying on the turf pumping his fists. It was a total Spencer win – as it turned out, his last of consequence.
7. Portland Timbers 2, Seattle Sounders 1: Welcome To Your Nightmare
November 2nd, 2013
Ricketts, Jewsbury, Futty, Kah, Harrington, Chara, W. Johnson (C), Wallace, Valeri, Nagbe, R. Johnson
There was something slightly surreal about this game for the Portland Timbers, from the Seahawks lines that covered CenturyLink Field’s turf, to that confidence feigned by the Emerald City Supporters when their pre-match tifo read, "Welcome To Your Nightmare."
It should have, "Welcome To Our Nightmare," because the Sounders were in the midst of their worst ever season, and it was about to get a whole lot more ugly over the 180 minutes of soccer that were about to unfurl in front of them.
Until this night in November 2013, Portland had never won in MLS in Seattle, let alone had a lead. That all would change.
Caleb Porter opted to place his faith in Ryan Johnson up top, instead of young-gun Jose Valenica, the barely-fit or serviceable Maxi Urruti, or Frederic Piquionne.
Seattle, meanwhile, was without starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who had gotten himself sent off in the team’s wild card win over Seattle for bounding out of his penalty area and catching a long-ball.
In the 15th minute, Diego Chara sprayed a ball wide for Jack Jewsbury, who took a touch, and sent a perfect cross towards Ryan Johnson streaking in at the near post.
Johnson’s flicked header would have been a save for most goalkeepers, but Seattle back-up Marcus Hahnemann was hopelessly out of position, and it was 1-0.
Portland was mostly content to play on the break and rely on their defense, and while Seattle had a couple of chances through long Clint Dempsey free-kicks, they were mostly held in check.
The Timbers pounced again in the 65th minute, when some neat work from substitute Kalif Alhassan on the wing freed Darlington Nagbe in the middle to fire past Hahnemann and make it 2-0.
In fact, the game would have been perfect had it ended one minute earlier than it did. Because at the edge of stoppage time, Osvaldo Alonso finally fired home the Sounders’ goal.
You could feel it coming – Ricketts was forced into a world-class save on a Dempsey header just minutes before, and Seattle was playing with a desperate franticness.
It finished 2-1, and there was no way to know that that goal would be nothing more than academic after the Timbers pasted the Sounders in the second leg five days later at Jeld-Wen Field.
Then, it hurt. It hurt that it was Alonso who scored it. That it came off a long throw-in didn’t help.
Still, the achievement couldn’t be dimmed. The Timbers had come to Seattle in the club’s first ever MLS playoff game, outplayed the home team, and won.
It more than set up the euphoria that was to follow on November 7th.
8. Portland Timbers 3, LA Galaxy 0: Total Domination
August 3rd, 2011
Perkins (C), Chabala, Brunner, Horst, Palmer, Chara, Marcelin, Nagbe, Zizzo, Perlaza, Cooper
As the calendar turned to August 2011, the shine that had coated the Timbers’ expansion season was wearing mighty thin.
After their magical unbeaten home run to start the season had kept the team afloat in the playoff race and secured plenty of goodwill amongst its burgeoning fan-base, the summer had put a major dent in the feel-good story.
Portland hadn’t won a home match since May, in addition to their ever present road struggles, and just three days before the midweek match against the Galaxy had blown a two-goal lead in the last minutes against laughing-stock Toronto FC.
Meanwhile, LA were riding a league-record fourteen game unbeaten streak with the likes of David Beckham and Landon Donovan, and for the first time in Timbers MLS history, there was real, city-wide pessimism surrounding the home team.
To add the woe, there were injury problems. Talisman Jack Jewsbury was out, as was Eddie Johnson, an English forward who had just recently won a starting place and scored against TFC the previous weekend.
Johnson, as turned out, had suffered what would end up being a career-ending concussion in the pregame warm-up, and only that gave Kenny Cooper a ticket out of the doghouse and back onto the field.
So it shocked everyone when the Timbers stepped out onto the field, and stepped on the Galaxy’s throats.
Mike Chabala opened the scoring with a laser from the top of the box and Jorge Perlaza two after sealing off AJ DeLaGarza and rifling past Josh Saunders. At halftime, the Timbers had outshot LA 9-0.
It only got better. Eric Brunner made it 3-0 off a corner kick to put the icing on the scoring, while Chabala, clearly enjoying the Timbers Army, karate-chopped his already cracked log at full-time.
The Timbers left the Galaxy admiring their work-rate and desire. It was a proud moment – LA would go on to win MLS Cup, but they’d come to Portland and been absolutely destroyed by the rag-tag Timbers.
Soccer wise, it was the best 90 minutes of the inaugural season.
9. Portland Timbers 3, Philadelphia Union 1: What Might Have Been
March 12th, 2012
Perkins, Palmer, Brunner, Jean-Baptiste, Wallace, Jewsbury (C), Chara, Alexander, Alhassan, Perlaza, Boyd
Before the 2012 Portland Timbers season went off the rails and we were presented with a lot of Kosuke Kimura and #GWOut movement, there was great hope for the Timbers’ sophomore season.
The thinking was logical, if a tad naïve. The Timbers team that missed the playoffs by two points in their first year would add Kris Boyd, take advantage of their experience, and make the team’s first playoff run.
Boyd, of course, was supposed to be a star. And for one night, he was.
In a monsoon, in front of an ESPN audience, the Timbers dominated the first fifty minutes, but went behind when a 35 yard free kick hit Andrew Jean-Baptiste and skipped past Troy Perkins.
It was then that the Timbers kicked it into high gear. Jean-Baptiste nodded a Jack Jewsbury free kick through the dive of Union goalkeeper Zach McMath to make it 1-1.
Ten minutes later, Kalif Alhassan hit Boyd for a ten-yard flick on header that was perfection. Not only was it the essence of what John Spencer wanted Portland to accomplish in his one and a half years here, but it also might have been the finest piece of center forward play in team history.
Alhassan, who was the best player on the field, chipped McMath with a cross to make it a 3-1 final. It was a jazz-hands symphony from Kalif, one of those games when the Ghanaian just had a gleam in his eye and a bounce in his step that made him unplayable.
Spencer was pumping his fists, Boyd was all he’d been billed as, and anything was possible. The Timbers put on a show that night. Unfortunately it was to be the most false of dawns.
10. Portland Timbers 1, San Jose Earthquakes 0: "If There’s A Fight…"
April 14th, 2013
Ricketts, Jewsbury, Silvestre, Futty, Harrington, Chara, W. Johnson (C), Wallace, Nagbe, Alhassan, R. Johnson
The Portland Timbers were just getting used to winning. Caleb Porter’s first victory as a professional head coach had come the weekend before against the Houston Dynamo, and as the Portland Timbers’ defense was finding its footing, the team’s 2013 season was beginning to take off.
San Jose, at the time, was an especially moody bunch of a meagerly talented players who aggravated their opposition to self-destruction and got the most out of their meager talents.
They liked to play chippy, tight, closely contested games, and within minutes of kickoff against the Portland Timbers on this cool April night, it was clear that one goal would enough. It was also clear that things might get ugly.
The first half saw Futty Danso injure Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon savage Diego Chara who completed ten-barrel roles and get Gordon booked, and few chances fall to either team.
Every inch of space was being contested. There was a certain claustrophobia about the game, an uncomfortable air filling the stadium.
In the 68th minute, Silvestre, with blood pouring out of a gash on the side of his face, went charging at Gordon claiming an elbow.
Silvestre, who endeared fans in his short time in Portland with a general joie de vivre and easy air, was more incensed than injured, in an enraged disbelief that Gordon had elbowed him in the face.
What Silvestre, and the stadium that had seen events unfold on the scoreboard didn’t know, was that the elbow was completely unintentional.
It didn’t matter. Gordon was shown his second yellow. Then, on his way out Gordon sent a homophobic slur at Will Johnson. San Jose were down to ten.
Like that mattered. San Jose had sunk their teeth in, and it was going to take a moment of magic to win the game.
That’s what Portland was thinking when Will Johnson stood over a free-kick, twenty-five yards from goal in the middle of the field in the 77th minute.
His take was perfection. Jon Busch had no chance. The Timbers’ captain went berserk, sliding into the advertising boards and screaming at the Army.
The Earthquakes would get one chance to level the match – a free header that Chris Wondolowski hit straight at Donovan Ricketts.
It was the best game in an increasingly and then suddenly intense rivalry between the Timbers and Earthquakes.
The 1-0 propelled Portland up the standings, and may just have helped trigger the demise of San Jose, but it set up a theme for the 2013 season that Caleb Porter would sum up after beating Seattle 1-0 at home in a similarly tight match at the end of the year.
"If there’s a fight, we’re up for a fight. There’s no problem with that. We can out-football teams, but we can also out-fight teams. They made it a fight, and that was no problem for us."