PORTLAND, Ore. — If you watched the game, the action spoke for itself; if you didn’t, there are better places to get the blow-by-blow. When a team wins 6-1, like the Portland Timbers did on Saturday night, there isn’t much perspective to add. One team was really good, the other team, Real Salt Lake, was really bad, with the gap between the sides larger than we’re used to seeing in Major League Soccer.
For the crowd at Providence Park, it the night was festive and therapeutic – a chance to celebrate an attacking outburst that doubled the team’s previous 2021 high in goals. It was the first time since October 7, 2020, that the team scored six goals and the first time they did so at home since September 23, 2014, when Guyana’s Alpha United visited in Champions League. Saturday was the first time in MLS play that the Timbers had scored at least six times in a game at home.
That speaks to how anomalous the night was. The Timbers gave a fantastic performance, but in terms what it means for the team going forward, it’s best to mark the achievement, note the flash of potential, then recognize: most nights are going to be most difficult than that one.
So instead of a big breakdown or some type of philosophical perspective, let’s take a page from our high school yearbooks, mix that with an Academy Awards feel, and hand out some awards to the night’s goals. In terms of categories and bests, here’s how we see the Timbers' six scores.
Best performance by actors in a supporting role
Paredes had come into the game in the 75th. Loría entered in the 80th while Diego Valeri, and important part of the goal’s transition, came on in the 85th. Three of Giovanni Savarese’s five substitutes were part of the night’s final goal.
Best comeback performance
Jaroslaw Niezgoda is finally back on the scoresheet. Roughly 11 months after this 2020 season ended prematurely after an anterior cruciate ligament tear, “Jaro” got back on the board, one-timing a right-footed finish into the left of goal to make it 5-1 in the 85th minute.
Niezgoda has been healthy enough to play for a while. That’s not to say he’s used to being back. At this point, he’s in the confidence-building phase of his recovery. His first goal of 2021 has to help.
Best performance by an ensemble cast
In hindsight, this goal hinted Portland could have a special night. But you don’t know that for sure until, well, you have that actual hindsight. Now, remembering this goal, it’s clear the Timbers were in a mood.
No part of this transition goal was a top moment by itself, but in their simplicity, the moments were beautifully executed. Diego Chara recovering a ball, playing a perfectly weighted pass into space. Sebastián Blanco setting himself up to deliver the right ball to Felipe Mora. Then, Mora being Mora, executing in the exact way Timbers fans have come to expect. A great ensemble performance.
Best performance by an actor in a lead/solo role
If Real Salt Lake could pick one goal that, more than the others, shouldn’t have happened, it has to be this one. Dario Zuparic just kicks the ball to Dairon Asprilla. He punts it some 50 yards, lets his teammate rise for a header, and … that’s it. There's nothing elegant about it.
Goals should not be this easy.
For Asprilla, this was a landmark goal. Scoring for the seventh time this season, Asprilla matched the goal total he collected over his previous six MLS seasons, combined. His first seven MLS goals came in 4205 minutes. His last seven took 1542.
Best flashback/callback to a previous performance
Yimmi Chara’s early second-half goal …
… wasn't quite at the level of Christine Sinclair’s from the Thorns’ Saturday game in Chicago …
… but the similarities are obvious. In both cases, the Portland player was given too much time to pick out a spot. Both times, the players chose placement over power. Both times, Portland scored.
Best show of competitive nepotism
Three of Diego Chara’s 12 MLS goals have come against Real Salt Lake, and in terms of beating them on the counter, RSL’s been here before:
What’s special about tonight’s goal is the person who set him up. For the first time, Diego’s brother, Yimmi, assisted on one of his goals, with Diego’s 68th-minute finish putting the Timbers up, 4-1.
And, thanks to Timbers’ videographer Jeff Kastner, the brothers got a Photo of the Night candidate out of it, too: