BEAVERTON, Ore. – Two titles in less than seven months?
The 29-year-old is in the midst of his second stint in Portland after rejoining the team back in August from Santos Laguna of Liga MX, where Villafaña was a part of the 2018 Santos team that embarked on an epic title-winning run that saw them defeat three opponents with a combined 28 league titles.
Fast-forward to this Saturday’s MLS Cup (8 pm ET | FOX, UniMás, TSN1/3/5, TVAS) that pits the Timbers against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and Villafaña finds himself in the unique situation of potentially bagging two championship trophies in the same calendar year.
“To be honest, I didn’t know that I was going to come here and in December and be fighting for a Cup,” Villafaña told reporters after Portland’s training session Monday morning. “That’s one of the things, you always come to work and to help the team, but I would say it’s a reward that six months later I get the opportunity to once again fight for a title.”
For Villafaña – who was also a key member of the Timbers team that won the franchise’s first-ever MLS Cup in 2015 – Saturday’s championship bout in Atlanta represents exactly the type of opportunity he envisioned when he returned to the club.
His run in Liga MX was a successful one, as he logged 53 appearances over his three seasons while becoming one of just three Americans to ever play for MLS and Liga MX champions, joining Herculez Gomez and Omar Gonzalez in the exclusive club. He was also able to break into the US national team rotation, with 21 caps now to his name since 2017.
Won Sueño MLS. Won a spot in the Chivas USA academy. Won a starting job. Won MLS Cup 2015. Won a place on the USMNT. Won the 2017 Gold Cup. Won the 2018 Clausura.— Major League Soccer🏆 (@MLS) December 3, 2018
Now, there's another #MLSCup title in sight for @JVillafana19. #RCTID https://t.co/zxFKDJZkYU
But after his August transfer and arrival back in the Rose City, he also said he felt as though he was “home” — in a place where both he and his family were familiar and comfortable with their surroundings.
“You always think about that with every move,” he said. “You think about your family. But I think right now my kids are little still, so they get used to it quick. They take it as another move, another opportunity to do something better, meet new friends. They love it here and they’re really happy.”
That comfort level has manifested itself on the field, where Villafaña has once again become a fixture in Portland’s starting XI, having featured there for all of the club’s postseason matches thus far.
While the Timbers are a much different unit than the title-winning 2015 team, there are also a collection of familiar faces from that run in addition to Villafaña, including midfielders Diego Valeri and Diego Chara and defender Liam Ridgewell.
Another title in 2018 for Villafaña would certainly be a novel accomplishment, but Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella also pointed out the weight it would carry for the organization as a whole, particularly for the team’s veteran-laden core.
“You look at the guys the Timbers had the last time they won it – they’re playing huge roles now,” Attinella said. “Valeri, Diego Chara, Ridgwell, Jorge coming back, that’s a good core group of guys. It’s good leadership we can lean on for the experience of what they’ve been through. Reaching a second final is awesome for that core group because I think it kind of legitimizes them and gives them the credit and the recognition that they should be getting.”