COLUMBUS, Ohio—The Pacific Northwest is recognized around North America as a mecca for professional soccer, but since the Seattle Sounders entered MLS in 2009 – followed by the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps in 2011 – Major League Soccer’s ultimate prize had eluded the region’s teams.
That all changed on Sunday, when the Portland Timbers became the first Cascadia team to lift the Phillip F. Anschutz Trophy, thanks to a 2-1 win over Columbus Crew SC.
Winning that first trophy represents a milestone moment for any franchise, regardless of location, but Timbers defender Nat Borchers did agree that distinction of being the first Cascadia team to win MLS Cup made the accomplishment a little more special.
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“It’s great,” Borchers said. “And I think Vancouver and Seattle are happy for us, too, with as much of the rivalry we as we have with them. Because it just throws the spotlight on what a great part of the country it is to play soccer. The weather, the fans, the rivalries, it’s special.”
Said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter: “It's always nice to do something that's never been done, to be the first to do anything. It's been great.”
The potential accomplishment proved a popular topic of discussion in the media during the week leading up to MLS Cup, but according to Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury, it stopped there.
“I think [this victory] is bigger than that,” Jewsbury said. “I think you guys in the media will play that up a little more, but we never once talked about being the first team [from Cascadia] to make an MLS Cup. You read stuff about it, but yeah it’s special, to get to this point is special.”
It is certainly a special moment for the city, with the Timbers joining the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) and 2013 Portland Thorns (NWSL) as major professional sports champions to represent the Rose City.
“It’s a great feeling,” Porter said. “All I could think about was sharing that moment with my players – we have been through a long season. We have been together through highs and lows and they deserve all the credit, they are the ones playing the game inside of the lines and they had belief. I don’t think it has fully sunk in completely yet.”
Those players were backed by around 2,000 traveling fans from the Timbers Army, who filled up the south end of the stadium, helping to ensure the region’s passion for soccer was evident on the national stage.
“Maybe I have different listening, but I just heard our fans all game,” Porter said. "I don't know if that was actually the case or if I just listened for it, but I thought our fans were loud. It felt like a neutral game.
They deserved this, and I'm real happy for our fans, our Timbers Army. They can walk around with their chest out knowing that they're the best team in the league this year and they've got the MLS Cup trophy. They deserve it and so does the Portland community."