Illustration by Lucinda Drake

The Portland Timbers will soon be playing in the 2018 Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup Finals. They defeated Kansas City over the two-leg the semifinals to do this. The Timbers were granted expansion into the MLS in 2009. The club was founded in 1975 in the North American Soccer League (NASL). In 2015, they won the MLS Championship. Isaak Ordaz (10), a fan of the Timbers said, “I think the team’s success stirs the pot and is growing the MLS a lot.”

The Timbers have some effects on Portland as a community; they bring people together, which brings the city closer. An example of this is the Timbers Army, a fanclub that has been supporting the Timbers since 2001, which was when they were founded. The Army unites Portlanders across the city under a common goal: rooting for the Timbers.

A significant change for the Timbers in 2018 was the hiring of Giovanni Savarese, their new head coach. Savarese was previously the coach for the New York Cosmos in the NASL. He had a tremendous time with the Cosmos, giving them a high powered offense. They scored a total of 223 goals during his five-season stint as head coach, the most of any team in that stretch. Savarese also guided them to four NASL Championships, where they won three times: in 2013, 2015, and 2016. His only loss in the championship was in 2017 against the San Francisco Deltas. In 2014, the Cosmos lost in the semi-finals to the San Antonio Scorpions. Under Savarese, the Timbers recorded 15 wins, 10 losses, and 9 draws in the 2018 regular season, placing fifth in the Western Conference.

Key players Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco have also helped lead to the Timbers’ success. Valeri is an Argentine soccer player who’s been playing for the Timbers since 2013. He was named the MLS most valuable player in 2017, scoring scored a total of 21 goals and recording 11 assists over the course of the season. In 2018, he scored 10 goals and tallied 12 assists. Nikolas Kovacevic (12), a Franklin varsity soccer player, said, “In my opinion, the best player this season has to be Diego Valeri; he’s always a top scorer.” Like Valeri, Blanco has also had an outstanding season. Blanco has scored 10 goals and 11 assists in the regular season.

The Timbers ended the 2018 season with a total of 54 points, qualifying them to the playoffs. They played against FC Dallas in the preliminary round and defeated them 2-1. This victory helped the Timbers move onto the next round where they faced the Seattle Sounders in the two-leg Western Conference Semifinal. In the first game against the Sounders, the Timbers defeated them, scoring two goals to Seattle’s one. In the second game, the Timbers played at CenturyLink Field, home of the Sounders. After full time, the Sounders were up 2-1, which meant that the combined score of the two games was a 3-3 tie. Both teams scored in overtime, and, with a 4-4 aggregate, they went to penalties. The Timbers defeated the Sounders on penalty kicks, scoring four goals, while the Sounders only scored two. This led the Timbers to move on to the Western Conference Finals against Sporting Kansas City. In the first leg, Kansas City and the Timbers tied 0-0. The Timbers beat Kansas City 3-2 in the second leg, advancing them to the MLS Cup Final.

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