BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Portland Timbers got back to work Wednesday with one mighty big goal within reach: the Cascadia Cup.
Despite their dismal overall season, Portland are still in the driver’s seat for the supporter-created, three-team derby among the league’s Pacific Northwest teams.
And with archrivals Seattle paying a visit Saturday to JELD-WEN Field for a nationally televised game (3:30 pm ET, NBC, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) and the Timbers already holding a three-point advantage over the Sounders in the Cascadia standings, a victory would do a lot to ease the pain accumulated throughout the season - in fact it would win them the Cup itself, based upon the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“The support that [the fans] given us throughout this whole thing has been great, and it’s a way for us to pay them back in a small way,” Timbers team captain and midfielder Jack Jewsbury said after Wednesday’s training session, following five days off in the aftermath of their 3-0 loss last week against Colorado. “It means a lot to them, we know that, but it means a little bit more to the group in the locker room, as well, to bring home some sort of trophy.”
The last time the Cup resided in Rose City was back in 2010, when Portland and Vancouver still played in the second flight. Last year, in the first year all three teams were in MLS, Seattle won the Cup.
“There’s always a bit more emphasis on these games, especially with the Cascadia Cup and where we stand,” Jewsbury said. “It’s a huge game, and it gets us closer to where we want to be in those standings.”
Interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson also said the team’s performance in important games will be a measuring stick for the organization’s offseason evaluations. And, of course, there will be people watching, namely next year’s head coach Caleb Porter.
“For us, the game means an awful lot,” Wilkinson said. “And for the players, it’s another opportunity to show that they can play well and play well in big games.”
Valencia making progress
Timbers owner and president Merritt Paulson said Wednesday at the team’s training facility that young Designated Player José Adolfo Valencia will likely play 20 minutes in the team’s next, and final, Reserve League game Sunday against the Seattle Sounders Reserves at JELD-WEN Field.
The Colombian striker has been out the entire season after preseason knee surgery. He’s been training with the team for more than two weeks.
Down a defender
Defender Steven Smith was issued his fifth caution of the season in the second half against the Rapids on Sept. 5. As such, the left back will miss Saturday’s match against Seattle due to a league-imposed suspension for caution accumulation.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.