PORTLAND, Ore. – The saying is “Only in the movies.”
But after the Portland Timbers’ 2013 season, that could easily be changed to “Only in the Rose City.”
At the very least, after the Timbers secured their first MLS Cup Playoffs series victory Thursday night with a 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference semifinals, things couldn’t be going better if they were scripted.
A complete turnaround from a dismally disappointing previous season? Check.
Advancing in the playoffs by beating their hated rivals to advance to the conference finals in front of a ravenous home crowd at JELD-WEN Field? Check.
But as the Timbers Army sang and danced late into the night in soggy downtown Portland, players and coaches were chalking it up to business as usual.
“It means a great deal to our fans, and we want to do right by them,” Timbers captain Will Johnson said. “So obviously we’re happy that they can trash talk their rival fan base. I think that’s pretty cool, but for us it was just another team that was in our way and we had to take care of business and move onto the next round.”
This was clearly not just another game, however.
The Timbers' support lined the streets surrounding JELD-WEN Field early and often on a stormy Thursday, with some fans even camping through the night. A large tifo display kicked off the proceedings, and the Timbers didn’t disappoint by sending the crowd into a frenzy when they took a 3-0 lead late into the game.
The Timbers’ magical season will continue in the conference championship against Real Salt Lake starting with the first leg Sunday at Rio Tinto Stadium (9 pm ET, ESPN).
“I think when we can bring a little bit of extra meaning and joy by beating a team that our supporters hate, then I think it’s extra special,” Portland head coach Caleb Porter said in his postgame comments to the media.
“But in the end, they’re the team we drew, they were in our way, and Salt Lake is now in our way. It doesn’t matter who it is, we’re not going to want to lose to them and we’re going to do everything we can to move on.”
Now Portland continue their journey into uncharted territory knowing they’ve beaten Seattle three straight times – to say nothing of their 10-game unbeaten streak. And even though it was a nice bonus, Porter said that’s just what they’re focused on: the journey.
“I’m so locked in right now,” he said. “Obviously, the rivalry is big and it means a lot to our supporters. But I don’t hate [Sounders head coach] Sigi Schmid, I don’t hate their players. I understand that there’s a rivalry and I understand that we want to beat Seattle and I’ll always want to beat everybody.”
Now, the only question is what’s next on the script for Porter and the Portland Timbers?
“It means that we’re three games away and have two teams in our way,” he said. "This team genuinely believes that we have a realistic shot at this.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.