With the playoffs lost as Portland’s disappointing season draws to a close, the Timbers still showed they’re willing to stand toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league.
And after tempers flared and pushing and shoving marked the end of their 2-2 draw against the MLS-leading San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium, the Timbers now have something else to play for: October 27.
That’s when they next face San Jose, in the teams’ regular season finale that will presumably have Supporters’ Shield implications for the Quakes. Needless to say after the finish to Wednesday’s match, Timbers would like nothing more than to throw a wrench into those plans.
“We came in here and we knew they were a tough team that was going to fight for 90 minutes and we had to match their intensity,” said Timbers forward Danny Mwanga, whose two goals were matched by Golden Boot leader Chris Wondolowski in the game’s final 20 minutes. “I think at the end of the game, it got a little chippy and they were fighting and we had to do the same thing.”
And for a team that watched their 2-0 lead go by the boards, there was no indication that they were hanging their heads.
“I think we had a good performance tonight against a very good team on their home field,” Mwanga told MLSsoccer.com. “So I think we just have to take the positives things out of that going into the Salt Lake game.”
Mwanga’s surprising performance – in his first start since July 21 – exemplifies where Portland’s motivation lie as they seek to prove themselves for new head coach Caleb Porter, who is watching the team from afar as he finishes his duties as the University of Akron head coach this fall.
“As a young player, you want to play,” Mwanga said. “You want to play, and when you’re not doing that it can get a little frustrating. But once you get your opportunity to start again you have to make sure to make the most out of it. I was just really focused and excited coming in.”
Mwanga’s goals in the 45th and 62nd minutes also gave the former Oregon State star somewhat of a feather in his cap against the league leaders. Mwanga now has three goals against the Earthquakes this year after scoring his first goal in a Timbers uniform in their 2-1 win against San Jose on July 3 and JELD-WEN Field.
“We came in and took care of the things we could control; we played hard and matched their intensity,” Mwanga said. “We all know that. And the coaching staff has done a very good job of trying to keep things positive heading into the game on Saturday.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.