The Seattle Sounders are not a bad team. In fact, by payroll standards, they are actually a very good team. But Portland exposed everything that was wrong with the 2013 Sounders, and showed just how far chemistry and coaching go to make a group of players into a team.
Everything about this season for the Portland Timbers is historic. There was history in making it to the playoffs. There was history in finishing atop the conference. And now, there is history in advancing to the Conference Championship. How far will the history-making go? At this rate, there really is no telling.
Portland beat Seattle by a score of 3-2 at Jeld Wen Field, and won the round by an aggregate score of 5-3. For a long time, it appeared that the home shutout streak would continue, but Seattle made for good TV drama when they pulled in two goals late. Even with the relatively close aggregate score, the final result was never really in doubt. Portland was the better team in both games.
On a day when nobody in Portland was talking about the Trail Blazers and the Oregon Ducks were knocked out of the NCAA Championship race, the Timbers showed just how much hold they have over their city. Of the 20,674 people in the stadium, not one of them was thinking about anything but their Timbers. And the Timbers rewarded that loyalty and devotion.
Aside from the winning and the losing of the game, story lines were emerging from all sides. Will Sigi Schmid keep his job next year? Will Clint Dempsey “work” in Seattle? Is Caleb Porter proving to be the best coach in this league? Are the Timbers the favorite to win it all? What does this mean for the Cascadia rivalry?
Right now all we have are more questions without answers. But what we do know is that the Portland Timbers have a game to plan for – and the Seattle Sounders will have to see if this money spending formula is headed in the right direction. Both are compelling stories, though Portland’s telling will be a more positive one at the moment.
Portland will go on to face an opponent that they know well in Real Salt Lake on Sunday. For the players, there won’t be any time to sit and revel in beating their most hated rivals. But at the rate that Portland is healing from injury and stringing goals together, Real Salt Lake will need to bring their best game to beat them.
Just ask Seattle how a mediocre effort worked out for them.