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Timbers dispatch Minnesota United in the MLS playoffs first round as match day rituals are restored.

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - The Timbers Army capos were back in their metal boxes conducting the chants, there was a tifo (large banner display) after the national anthem that read PASSION & STEEL ARE FORGED IN THE HOTTEST FIRES and included the Thompson Elk backlit by flames, an icon of 2020's protests.

The Portland Timbers played with steely resolve and fiery passion Nov. 21 to beat their layoff opponents easily, as other things felt back to normal.

Minnesota United fans hit Portland for their MLS Cup playoff game against the Portland Timbers on Sunday afternoon. Over 200 fans took a charter flight that would get them in and out of Portland in a day. They were loud throughout but went home with only their pride to show for it. The 2:30 p.m. game at Providence Park, officially called Round One Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, is the only leg of this round, so losing meant the end of the season for one team.

The Timbers were on a winning streak coming into the game, but both teams seemed fairly well matched as they play similar counterattacking football. The Timbers turned around a disappointing first half to the season to finish 4th in the western conference with 56 goals, second only to Sporting Kansas City (58.) The Loons, as MUFC are known, finished 5th in the West thanks to a Decision Day drama where they depended on a late goal by Real Salt Lake at Kansas City.

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Capos were back conducting the singing and the Timbers Army let of smoke in solidarity with the Thorns players.

Before the game, Minnesota fans Chris Johnson and Dan McConville of Minneapolis told the Portland Tribune they were cautiously optimistic the Loons could win.

"Minnesota has a great record against the Timbers recently (three wins this season) and even the Vikings beat the Packers today, so if the Minnesota Vikings can pull out a win, we can, absolutely," said Johnson. McConville said of the Loons' 2021 season, "It was a little bit of a roller coaster, but we're here." As for former Timbers forward Fanendo Adi, who now plays for Minnesota, Johnson said, "He's just been irrelevant for us. He's only seen a couple of minutes." They were disappointed to hear that regular goalkeeper Tyler Miller wouldn't play because he had just tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The Loons came bursting out of the blocks are were 1-0 up in 11 minutes with a Franco Fragapone goal. However, the Timbers didn't panic and two minutes before halftime Larrys Mabiala looped a header beyond Minnesota's flailing stand-in goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair.

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - After the 3-1 win, the North End celebrated.

At halftime, MUFC fan Noah Johnson (no relation), who lives four blocks from their stadium, Allianz Field in St Paul, Minnesota, said he was still really excited.

"We beat the Timbers all three games this season. I'm excited what Dayne St. Clair can do, because he's really great in the box and is really good with his hands. But he's not amazing with distribution, and I think a little bit of an experience might hurt us." He thought Portland's attack was superior, but still thought it would be close. "It's going to be like 'a last five minutes,' the end result game," Johnson said.

Minnesota United's first game after they ascended to Major League Soccer in 2017 was a 5-1 drubbing by Portland, in Portland. Things have changed since then, and they have the savvy of English journeyman coach Adrian Heath on their side.

Johnson said this season had started disappointingly and then there were many injuries, but like the Timbers' season, had picked up later in the year. "It's few and far between when everybody's getting healthy and everything's been clicking. If that happens, I think we're on par with some of the best teams in the league. In the same sense, Portland, if they're healthy, are as good as some of the best teams in the league."

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - At half time, MUFC fan Noah Johnson (no relation), who lives four blocks from their stadium, Allianz Field in St Paul, Minnesota, said he was still really excited. Note the beer cozy.

Johnson wore a knotted cozy/mitten that wrapped around his beer and his shirt depicted star forward Emanuel Reynoso, whose nickname is Maybelo. The shirt said "Nobody puts Maybelo in a corner," showing the No. 10 taking one.

Dark clouds loomed over Minnesota's day, however, as Sebastian Blanco scored two minutes into the second half with a scorcher into the top corner. Despite a flurry of yellow cards and some scuffles, the Timbers kept their heads, held onto the ball and saw out the win. For a long time the Timbers brand was blowing a lead in the late stages of a game, but on this playoff afternoon against Minnesota they showed steely resolve.

It was not a sell-out crowd, but otherwise it was loud (Minnesota fans were in good voice, too) and felt like normal times. The Timbers Army capos were back in their metal boxes conducting the chants, there was a tifo (large banner display) after the national anthem that read PASSION & STEEL ARE FORGED IN THE HOTTEST FIRES and included the Thompson Elk backlit by flames, an icon of 2020's protests.

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - (R-L) Timbers fans Jacob Burger, Morgan Foss Burger and Justin Foss Berger, were elated. After the game, having a smoke and a vape, Timbers fans Jacob Burger, Morgan Foss Burger and Justin Foss Berger were elated.

"Oh, I mean, it was terrific," said Jacob. "I've been to a handful of games this year and we've been riding I feel like a hot streak right into the playoffs and I felt like the energy gave us everything we needed tonight." He said being a goal down didn't worry him so long as the Timbers got one back before halftime, which they did. "That bicycle kick that they blocked, oh, man, I thought we were going to see another spectacular." (like Asprilla's wonder goal against San Jose on Oct. 27, a bicycle from Asprilla). "It was definitely a playoff atmosphere," Jacob said.

"I feel like the ref called it pretty fair and tight … should have seen a little bit more reds," said Morgan. "There were six yellows cards and 21 fouls," added Jacob, who had seen the final stats on his phone.

Justin said it was a good second half. "I figured we were going to score two … three was a bonus. We put the pressure on them. They pushed back even further after they scored the first goal, so defensive, and we just had to find the little spots in their defense to make it happen. And we did, you know? It's fun."

The three have been following the Timbers for eight years. For the last 10 minutes, which can be nerve-wracking, Justin felt fine. "I felt really confident. And then once we made it 2-1, I felt even more confident," he said.

"This hat was seven years ago," he added, pointing to his 2015 championship hat. "So we're due for another run, right?"


Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
971-204-7874
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."


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