We are one day away from the biggest Timbers game of the MLS era. The hated Seattle Sounders are coming to Portland and they are bringing the Cascadia Cup with them. When they came in June, they brought it to mock us, to show off. This time, they’ll have it with them for a very different reason. If we beat Seattle on Saturday, we win the 2012 Cascadia Cup and the trophy stays here in Portland until at least next year.
It’s been a disappointing season - there’s no way around that. The defense has been spotty. We lost crowd favorite and 2011 MVP Troy Perkins between the posts. Kris Boyd was, much like Kenny Cooper before him, a classy solution to a different problem than we actually had. He has starved for a lack of service and mostly faltered when he did get it. Darlington Nagbe started slow, but has come on late along with big forward Bright Dike.
But now, we can wipe a lot of that clean with a single win, maybe with a single kick of the ball if the timing is right. Winning the Cascadia Cup, and doing it with two matches still to play, would save the year for us. It would give us not only bragging rights, but give us a jolt of confidence going into the last stretch of the regular season.
The Sounders are on a pretty good run. They haven’t lost since mid-August, and in that time have destroyed Chivas 6-2 and all but eliminated the third horse in the Cascadia race with a 2-0 win over Vancouver. They are hitting their stride before the playoffs, and need every point they can get to keep position in the competitive top end of the Western Conference standings.
But they’ll remember their last trip in June, when they should have been equally dominant on paper. We sent them home that night holding their precious Cup. We will send them home now without it. There are seven games left in the 2012 MLS season, and the other six combined are not as big as this one. I want this - the Army wants this - badly.
Prediction: 3-2. Cascadia games are either cagey or wild, and I think we’ll see the latter, with shots peppering both goals. Ricketts will be tested, but Nagbe and Dike, along with (dare we hope) a substitute Boyd and former Flounder Mike Fucito will answer. It’s going to be one to be remembered, and I think that at the end of it, we’ll be holding the cup.