KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Timbers vs. End of Inaugural Season
“It’s an important game. As I said before the games at the start of the season, as soon as you put on a Timbers uniform regardless of whether it’s U-12s, whether it’s ODP (Olympic Development Program), PDL (Premier Development League), it doesn’t matter. You put on a Timbers uniform, you go out and you try to win the game.”
Those were the words of Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer following Friday’s training in Salt Lake City. After an evening flight on Thursday that coincided with a match between New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union that would decide Portland’s playoff fate—a match the Red Bulls won 1-0 thus putting them into the MLS Cup playoffs—the Timbers faced a Saturday season finale match against Real Salt Lake (6 pm PT, KPDX, estrella, 101 FM KXL, La Pantera 940 AM) that would not have any bearing on their own playoff hopes. They know that when the final whistle blows on Saturday, the 2011 inaugural MLS season will be finished.
However, the potential to look at the match as one that doesn’t mean anything is shortsighted. The challenge for John Spencer in continuing to instill a culture of winning throughout a nascent franchise brings us to Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up of the Match.
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
End of Inaugural Season
After the thrilling end to the match in D.C. and a season of great successes both on and off the field, to not make the playoffs is a disappointment. To end (potentially) in 11th position—just one spot out of it—could make it even tougher. That said, the potential to hit 44 points and ability to call the season a good one is still great.
Memorable matches, unbelievable goals, acrobatic saves, timely tackles, player development and growth—these all happened for the Timbers in 2011. Saturday’s match is an opportunity to put an exclamation point on all of that.
Real Salt Lake is a definitely talented team with numerous skilled players and a top three spot in the Western Conference to fight for at stake. Head coach Jason Kreis will have his team ready, no doubt about it.
But while the Timbers will be facing another XI across the field on Saturday, the match will be as much about proving something to themselves. Numerous Timbers Army members have made the trip to the Salt Lake to support a team that has given them so much in its inaugural MLS season.
And for John Spencer and his squad, he will push to show that in this end of the season, his ethos that the team—no matter the level or environment—will always play to win the game. The playoffs may be out of reach this season, but this match, and what it says matters.
“We could look at the last game as, ‘You know what? It’s our last game. There’s nothing riding on it,’” said Spencer. “But there is: it’s three points riding on it.”
For the Timbers, that’s all that’s needed: three points.