For the first time in their history, the Portland Timbers made it into the MLS Cup Playoffs after a terrific regular season, but it was only going to get tougher.
First up in the Western Conference semifinals was Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders, so Caleb Porter’s team knew that advancing to MLS Cup would require a huge collective effort.
- INFOGRAPHIC: The Portland Timbers 2013 season
Here’s how the ninth month of the season unfolded:
GOAL: Valeri adds to lead vs. Sounders
The Timbers finished the regular season on an eight-game unbeaten streak, so they were full of confidence taking on Seattle Sounders over two legs. Goals from Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe put them ahead in the Emerald City before Osvaldo Alonso stuck late. Then at JELD-WEN Field, Will Johnson, Diego Valeri and Futty Danso all got on the scoresheet in a 3-2 win to go through 5-3 on aggregate.
Then they came up against Real Salt Lake, where the winner would make it into the MLS Cup Final to play Sporting Kansas City. In the first leg, Will Johnson put the Timbers in front on 14 minutes but they conceded four times before Frederic Piquionne got one back late. It left them facing a massive challenge in the second leg and that was put out of reach when Robbie Findley scored—despite numerous chances and a few goals ruled out for Porter’s men.
11/2 – Seattle Sounders 1-2 Portland Timbers (Playoffs)
11/7 – Portland Timbers 3-2 Seattle Sounders (Playoffs)
11/10 – Real Salt Lake 4-2 Portland Timbers (Playoffs)
11/24 – Portland Timbers 0-1 Real Salt Lake (Playoffs)
GOAL: Jewsbury feeds R. Johnson
With the tension still bubbling at CenturyLink Field, where the Timbers took on the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal, a swift counter attack made all the difference. A slide pass from Diego Chara set Jack Jewsbury in on the right flank and he then crossed for Ryan Johnson to glance in a header at the near post. It was a sweet move and also the catalyst for the Timbers getting through that tie to meet Real Salt Lake in the next round.
Few players in MLS produce consistency in the way that Jewsbury does. Initially in Portland as a central midfielder, he slotted in at right back in 2013 and did a superb job in both defensive and attacking situations. An experienced player to have around the locker room, he showed his coolness on the pitch by breaking forward to contribute to attacks, sneaking in for vital interceptions, and making smart passes across the field. Never one to shy away from the tough times, Jewsbury rose to the occasion in the games against Seattle and battled hard against Real Salt Lake.
Where it left the Timbers?
In spite of the valiant efforts of the Timbers, they did not secure the MLS Cup final spot that they craved. Still, though, their journey throughout the season is one that they can be proud of in the regular season, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and the MLS Cup Playoffs. They may have not made it to the very end, but one thing that they did accomplish was confirming their status as one of the top teams in MLS and setting a strong foundation for a culture of winning.
They Said It:
Caleb Porter talking about Portland’s incredible fans after the 1-0 loss to RSL in the second leg of the MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Championship on Nov. 24, 2013:
“I feel like I’m the luckiest coach alive to have the fans that I have here. To be able to coach a group of guys in a stadium like that and a community like this that cares as much as they care, I count my blessings every day. I can’t thank the fans and supporters enough and that’s a big reason why we were the best team in the league this year at home, because of them. That will continue to be a huge advantage for us, and I’m just sorry that weren’t able to get it done and pull it off today for them. I do think that we, hopefully, ignited them and gave them a memorable year and season and something to look forward to in the future. Like I said, we’re not going away. This is just the beginning. We’ll be back.”