It may not forgive the 2012 season, but there’s not doubt that the Portland Timbers 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday at BC Place eased some of the pain.
With the win, the Timbers — long since out of the post season picture after a disappointing season that started with such promise more than six months ago — not only won the Cascadia Cup but also prevented from becoming the fifth team in MLS history to go winless on the road.
And fittingly, it was team captain Jack Jewsbury who brought a measure of solace to the challenging season with his 39th-minute wonder strike from distance. It finally gave the Timbers the supporter-created, three-team regional trophy after having two previous chances to bring home the Cup.
WATCH: Timbers talk about the big win postgame
“It was a great feeling,” Jewsbury told MLSsoccer.com. “I think for the group, obviously, this was our third crack at the trophy, and we wanted to make sure that we brought the Cascadia Cup home after this one. I think a lot of people questioned whether we could do it or not, especially on the road in a tough place and tough atmosphere. But the one thing I can say about this group is we’ve always stuck together, we’ve always fought for one another and it was great tonight that all the hard work finally paid off.”
Jewsbury struck from approximately 25 yards out, beating Whitecaps goalkeeper Brad Knighton to the top shelf, a high point in a strong first half for the Timbers. In their previous three road losses, the Timbers had allowed the first goals within the first 25 minutes of each game.
But the Timbers defense was up to the task this time, turning away a Vancouver side that needed three points to bolster their postseason chances.
“We came in at halftime, and we were pretty happy with the way we played in the first half,” Jewsbury said. “The main focus in the first half was let’s get a goal. And then when we started the second half it was, ‘Hey, now that we’ve got the goal, let’s keep a clean sheet to get the three points.’ That’s been something we’ve struggled with a little bit this year, and it was nice to finally get the group collectively to bear down on the defensive side of things.”
And with a trophy and a high point finally within the Timbers’ grasp, the defense withstood Vancouver’s final push to secure the win and the Cascadia Cup, taking the trophy from last year’s champion, bitter rival Seattle.
“I think at the end of the day we’re all disappointed still that we’re not competing in the postseason, but the reality is with two games left in the season we still had something to play for in the Cascadia Cup,” Jewsbury said. “So I think it’s huge for this group, especially coming back for next year this is a huge positive for us and a way for us to say thank you to our fans and organization for their support through these tough times.”
Disappointment aside, the Timbers were able to hoist the Cup in front of their supporters who filled a corner of BC Place.
“When the whistle blew it was a great feeling, not only for us but there were 500 to 1,000 of our fans that traveled with us,” Jewsbury said. “So to be able to hold that trophy up in the corner for them meant a lot.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.