Despite only having two games remaining in their miserable and highly disappointing second season in the MLS, the Portland Timbers actually have something left to play for—the chance to win the Cascadia Cup. If they are able to defeat the Vancouver Whitecaps this Sunday, they will leapfrog over the Seattle Sounders and claim the 2012 title.
This will be small consolation for a team that has spent most of the year at or near the bottom of the MLS standings, but it would certainly be something to hang their hats on for next season, especially when considering how inept they have been when playing on the road as they will this weekend.
As most Timbers fans will tell you, 2012 has gone wrong for the Timbers in just about every way imaginable. Kris Boyd, the Scottish Premier League‘s all-time leading scorer, has been a spectacular disaster of an offseason acquisition and yet still leads the team with a paltry 7 goals scored.
The Kenny Cooper trade to the New York Red Bulls has seen him double his goal-scoring output from 2011 and otherwise become the force Portland had hoped he would be.
The team has become worse with the addition of players like defender Kosuke Kimura, who often looks lost on the pitch. This is to say nothing of draft picks who have not worked out well during their first season (Andrew Jean-Baptiste), and injuries that have robbed the team of key players: namely defender Eric Brunner, who has been out with a concussion the past three months, and Jose Adolfo Valencia, a talented Colombian forward who had season-ending knee injury before the preseason even began.
Then there have been the games themselves. The Timbers have squandered gobs of leads and ties late in games (former coach John Spencer must have been training these guys to play 75 minutes rather than 90 considering how many goals they have given up in the final 15 minutes of their matches) and have simply been blown out and outclassed in many others. They have yet to win a single road game all season.
But the most embarrassing moment came in May during the third round—and the first round they actually had to play in—of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, when they lost to Cal FC, a member of the fifth-tier United States Adult Soccer Association. This marked only the second time an MLS team had ever lost to an amateur team (though later that same evening another amateur squad defeated an MLS team as well), and the first time it had happened without needing to at least go to penalty kicks.
Between making frequent bad passes, shooting past empty nets, losing control of their emotions and having circles run around them by quicker and more skilled teams, the Timbers have looked like the MLS’s version of the Bad News Bears in 2012.
Mercifully this season is about to come to an end and they technically have a chance to find a bright spot. But then again, their tilt with Vancouver is on the road, which seems to indicate they will not win the match or the Cascadia Cup. A tie won’t do the trick either, because although they are only one point behind the Sounders in the standings, the Sounders hold the tiebreaker over the Timbers, so the Timbers will have to win on Sunday to win the Cup.
If that happens, the skies will probably fall and the streets of Portland will probably burn, but that’s a big if.