A party is coming to Portland.
Now the league’s showcase match is returning to the Pacific Northwest and will feature the Timbers Army loud and proud, with Portland facing the winner of Sunday’s Eastern Conference Final between Philadelphia and NYCFC on Dec. 11 (3 pm ET | ABC, UniMas).
“To be able to host MLS Cup, it is a dream come to reality,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said postgame. “It is not only an event for Providence Park, it is for the city of Portland. We'll enjoy this tonight, but now we need to prepare very well to be ready for whoever we have to play in MLS Cup. But the guys are very happy with the performance they were able to produce tonight.”
MLS Cup is hosted by the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs team with the highest regular-season points total. And the Timbers accrued 55 points across the league’s 34-game marathon, placing fifth in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
When regular-season conference winners like New England Revolution (East) and Colorado Rapids (West) were bounced in the Conference Semifinals, the range of possibilities widened considerably. RSL played a key role, too, ousting Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City from the West field.
The window opened, and Portland seized their chance to possibly hoist the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy on home turf.
“This team works so hard, the players, the staff, everyone, on a difficult season,” Savarese said. "The guys were able to turn things around and we host this game here. It was something that we wanted to have and it became a reality.
“But I think the most important thing is that the players understood the moment and we knew we were playing against a difficult team and I felt we put a very strong performance tonight.”
Portland have reached their third MLS Cup in seven years since joining as an expansion team 11 years ago, defeating Columbus in 2015 and losing to Atlanta in 2018. Both of those matches came on the road, where only traveling supporters got to witness the historic occasion first-hand.
But this title-deciding game is descending on Oregon’s biggest city, with a 25,218 capacity crowd possible after the soccer-specific stadium was expanded in 2019. The environment they’ll provide is bound to be memorable, especially if Saturday’s win over RSL is any indicator.
“Tonight was very special,” Savarese said of the Rose City faithful. “The passion, the energy, it was at a level that gives me goosebumps. I'm very proud of the fans as well, for the support that they gave us. That's why we wanted to play this game here.”
This opportunity is just reward for Portland’s strong form, and a spectacle surely awaits when the 2021 campaign reaches its apex next weekend. For one, striker Felipe Mora can't wait.
“I think they're the best fans in MLS because we feel them when they're here,” said Mora, who scored alongside Santiago Moreno. “They're incredible and we thank them for being with us throughout the whole season, and especially tonight”