Maximiliano Urruti channels a little more Portland sports magic to lift Timbers past DC United
But the two athletes will be known together in Portland sports lore after providing the city two straight nights of drama.
One day after Lillard lifted the Portland Trail Blazers to the second round of the NBA Playoffs with a dramatic, buzzer-beating three-pointer to beat the Houston Rockets and ignite a Moda Center crowd, Urruti gave the Timbers their first win of 2014 in stunning fashion with a stoppage-time game winner on a rain-soaked Saturday night just across the Willamette River in front of a wild Providence Park crowd.
“I’m not sure Maxi knows who Damien Lillard is, but both players were special,” Johnson said in his comments after Portland's 3-2 win. “And the fans of Portland, they deserve this, they’re some of the best fans in the country. Watching that game last night, I’m proud to be a part of the sports landscape in this city because of the passion of the supporters. Last night and tonight, a special weekend for this city.”
Both game-winners had extra-special meaning for the city, as well.
Lillard’s dramatics gave the Blazers their first playoffs series victory since 2000. And though the Timbers have only had to wait since last November and 11 games – eight this season – since their last win, period, it may have felt like 14 years to followers of the green and gold.
“I think it was big,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter told the media after the game. “Obviously, like I said it’s three points, but sometimes it feels like more. And I think this is one that feels like more, and I think it will lift the group.”
It was a game that was playing out in what Porter called “déjà vu” fashion. Portland took two leads – including on the fastest goal in club history on a Gastón Fernández strike just 34 seconds in – only to see D.C. United erase them both. A 77th-minute own goal on center back Futty Danso, who had put the Timbers on top 2-1 in the 38th minute, seemingly had Portland heading toward a ninth-straight game without a win.
“I think sometimes, psychologically, when things are going your way, you play not to lose instead of playing to win,” Porter said. “Playing not to lose, usually you lose. We need to keep playing to win, we need to keep being aggressive, we need to keep being a team that’s in the front half, pushing games, proactive, on the ball, attacking.”
But Urruti wouldn’t be denied on a corner kick at the death, slamming home a rebound from his initial shot.
“I’m very happy, we haven’t been winning recently and luckily today I scored the goal and we got the three points,” Urruti said through a translator.
Johnson said the thought of chalking it up to another disappointment after the late D.C. equalizer never entered their minds.
“Through nine games this year I can’t say, off the top of my head, that any guy has given up on this group,” Johnson said. “So I think that’s a credit to the character of the guys that we have. It’s the bare minimum requirement to give everything you have to this football club because that’s what the supporters deserve, that’s what the ownership demands, that’s what Caleb demands and that’s what we reinforce as leaders of this locker room.”
Or maybe it was just something in the air in the Rose City.
“Maybe a little Blazer magic rubbed off on us last night,” Porter said.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.