Nat Borchers gives Portland Timbers an emotional win: "It's just a rollercoaster"

Diego Chara, Nat Borchers, Timbers @ RSL, 8.15.15

Nat Borchers, it seems, was a player built for the Portland Timbers.

The lanky center back has helped strengthen the backline since coming to the Rose City from Real Salt Lake this offseason. Of course, the bushy red beard couldn’t be more Portlandia.

Still, a part of him has admittedly remained with his old club where he spent seven solid years leading a first-class RSL defense.

His header at the death to give Portland a 1-0 victory Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium was understandably a bittersweet moment for the MLS veteran.

“I got a little emotional,” a choked up Borchers said, tears in his eyes, in an on-field postgame interview. “Didn't really want to score on my former team and take points from them, but happy for us. And I thought we really played a good game.”

After a game in which the Timbers absorbed wave after wave of attack from an RSL squad desperate to move into playoff position in the Western Conference, Borchers stepped forward in what would be the game’s final act to doom the home squad to a third straight loss. Getting on the end of a Diego Valeri corner kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time, his downwardly angled header was an exercise in precision geometry. The ball bounced just over the reach of the venerable Nick Rimando – who denied Portland with several signature efforts late and finished with three saves – and into the roof of the goal to stun the crowd that had once passionately cheered him on.

With the ball in the back of the net, Borchers fell to his knees, clasped his hands over his face and bowed his head – not willing to celebrate against his old team – before he was mobbed by teammates.

“It’s just a rollercoaster,” Borchers said. “I played seven years here, having just so many great relationships with this club and this community and coming back here and playing for the other side is tough. It’s been really tough for me. But I’m happy for the group and happy to move forward to next week.”

The goal wasn’t the only crucial contribution from Borchers on the night.

He led a stellar – and intended – defensive effort, one that withstood 15 shots (five on goal) on the night to record the Timbers’ third straight and league-leading 11th clean sheet of the season.

“I thought we earned it,” Porter said. “If it wasn’t for Rimando making three saves prior to the goal we scored then we would have gotten the goal sooner.”

And Porter acknowledged what a moment it was for one of the Timbers’ new leaders.

“He’s a winner, and I’m happy to see him score a goal at the end,” Porter said of Borchers. “Obviously it’s difficult to play against your former team; I know playing for Salt Lake meant a lot to him, and he had a lot of good years here. And sometimes emotionally that’s difficult to put on another uniform and play against your old team. But it’s a lot more difficult to lose to your old team than it is to win.”