Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Apple pie. Football.
These are tried and true American Thanksgiving traditions. And this week's Thanksgiving is no different as the Portland Timbers will play in a Thanksgiving football match – not the pointy-ball version.
After defeating Minnesota United 3-1 yesterday in Round One of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, the Timbers will now travel to face the Colorado Rapids in the Western Conference Semifinals in a nationally televised Thanksgiving day match on FOX. Kicking off at 1:30pm PT, the game will overlap with all your turkey-filled festivities.
Thanksgiving in MLS
MLS has never had a game occur on Thanksgiving though the playoffs, and Portland's involvement in them, have often closely straddled the holiday.
The Timbers hosted Sporting Kansas City in the first leg of the 2018 Western Conference Championship at Providence Park on Nov. 25, 2018 – just three days after that year's Nov. 22 Thanksgiving holiday. The match ended in a scoreless draw in Portland that set up a dramatic 3-2 Timbers second-leg win at Children's Mercy Park on Nov. 29 – a week after Turkey Day.
In 2015, Portland straddled the Thanksgiving holiday again with the Western Conference Championship, this time against FC Dallas.
On Nov. 22, Portland defeated Dallas 3-1 in the first leg with Dairon Asprilla scoring a golazo – and beginning his legendary postseason form – four days before the Nov. 26 Thanksgiving. Three days after the mashed potatoes on Nov. 29, Portland then went to Frisco, Texas and won the Western Conference trophy – the club's first MLS hardware – by finishing off Dallas in a 2-2 draw (5-3 win on aggregate) to book their first trip to MLS Cup.
Savarese vs. Fraser
Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese and Colorado head coach Robin Fraser are both longtime stalwarts of Major League Soccer.
Both were MLS originals with Savarese being selected in the ninth round by New York/New Jersey MetroStars of the 1996 MLS Inaugural Player Draft and Fraser going fourth overall to the LA Galaxy. Savarese became a legend with the MetroStars – scoring 41 goals in 85 games from 1996-1998 – with going on to appear in 129 matches for the Galaxy from 1996-2000.
The two players faced each other numerous times, including the first-ever MLS All-Star Game in 1996 with Savarese ghosting past Fraser to score a game-tying goal that helped Savarese's East side to a 3-2 victory over Fraser's West All-Stars. Watch as No. 17 Savarese makes his run with Fraser (No. 4 in white) on the play (:57 mark):
Fraser would later go on to play for the Colorado Rapids from 2001 to 2003 where he mentored then-rookie centerback Nat Borchers – later a Timbers MLS Cup-winner – before retiring with the Columbus Crew in 2005. A two-time MLS Defender of the Year (1999, 2004) and five-time MLS Best XI selection (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2004), Fraser would later become an assistant coach with Cup-winning sides in Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC, before being named head coach of the Rapids in 2019.
Savarese's playing career saw him travel to his native Venezuela as well as Italy and England before his time on the pitch finished. He was elected to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007 and coached the NASL's New York Cosmos to back-to-back titles before coming to Portland in 2018 and leading the team to four-straight postseason appearances, a 2018 Western Conference trophy and a 2020 MLS is Back Tournament title.
Portland is 10-9-6 all-time against the Rapids in MLS with Savarese 2-2-3 in his career. Against Fraser, however, the Timbers are 0-2-1. In 2021, a 10-man Timbers side fought back for a dramatic 2-2 draw against the Rapids on Sept. 15 and then dropped a 2-0 decision in Colorado on Oct. 23.
The two teams have never faced each other in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
On the Thorns side of PTFC world, five players received NWSL postseason accolades last week with midfielder Angela Salem making the league's Best XI list while Bella Bixby, Lindsey Horan, Meghan Klingenberg and Emily Menges all receiving NWSL Best XI Second Team honors.
Thorns forward Christine Sinclair, on the strength of her sterling regular-season campaign and having helped lead her Canada Women's National Team to a gold medal in the Tokyo Summer Olympics, was named to the shortlist of The Best FIFA Women's Award, the winner of which will be revealed at an online ceremony on January 17, 2022.