Portland Timbers pick up crucial, emotional home win over rival Seattle Sounders
Portland Timbers pick up crucial, emotional home win over rival Seattle Sounders

The Cup is coming back to the Rose City.

With a 2-1 win over the rival Seattle Sounders on Friday night at Providence Park, the Portland Timbers secured their first Cascadia Cup since 2017. It was a complete performance from Portland to earn Giovanni Savarese his first Cascadia Cup trophy as head coach, and Savarese is no doubt pleased with a climb in the standings as well.

“We said it many times that this game was very important,” Savarese said. “It’s Seattle, first of all. This derby, this type of match is the ‘clasico,’ however you want to call it. The rivalry is there, and there was a great energy in the stadium. There was a very good energy, and we felt it. We felt the energy of our fans. We knew it was going to be tough. Playing Seattle is always difficult.

“Today I thought we were very pragmatic. I thought a phenomenal first half. We need to do just a few more things attacking-wise, and I think we defended very well in the second half with everything that they threw at us. Very content with the performance today.”

The Timbers (8-8-12, 36 points) temporarily move into the seventh and final playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference with the win, although they’ve played three more games than the eighth place LA Galaxy (10-11-4, 34 points), who play on Sunday. The Sounders (10-14-3, 33 points) drop down to 10th with no points gained.

After an all-timer of a tifo banner was unveiled pregame by the Timbers Army, which referenced the Jack Nicholson-led horror classic “The Shining,” the Timbers and Sounders kicked off the latest edition of their storied rivalry.

Portland struggled a bit early, surrendering the first goal to the Sounders in the 8th minute on a header from Yeimar Gomez. His header came relatively unimpeded by a Timbers back line that was left dumbfounded.

Seattle would not have another shot for the rest of the first half, though, as the Timbers seized control and fought back to equalize.

Sebastian Blanco picked up a yellow card for dissent in the 10th minute, setting the fiery tone for what would be an emotional first half — as it always seems to be in these rivalry matches.

“I’m a very emotional guy,” Blanco said, garnering laughs in the postgame press conference.

Following a string of near-misses — including a set piece from Bill Tuiloma in the 14th minute and headers from Yimmi Chara and Zac McGraw in the 34th and 37th minutes, respectively — Eryk Williamson made a strong run into the box and drew a penalty.

Dairon Asprilla stepped up to the spot and nailed the penalty kick in the 41st minute, sending the Timbers Army into a frenzy and dark green smoke billowing into the late August air. Asprilla’s goal made it 1-1 heading into the half for Portland, who outshot the Sounders 9-1 and had six corners to their one.

“I’m excited,” Asprilla said in English, his second language. “It’s Seattle. When the Timbers play Seattle, everything is a final for us. Three points today is important for the next games.”

The Timbers came out of the second half maintaining their offensive aggression, even as the Sounders ramped up theirs. In the 51st minute, Williamson played a perfect ball in to an open Asprilla, who dropped it off to Blanco for the wide open goal.

Portland led 2-1 as Blanco gestured emphatically to the Timbers logo on his chest, playing to the crowd as only a showman could.

Jaroslaw Niezgoda replaced Blanco in the 75th minute, and Timbers fans flooded him with cheers as he came off. Portland would seek to hang onto its lead the rest of the way against a Seattle side that had to that point been highly ineffective with the ball.

Tempers flared again in the 78th minute as McGraw earned a yellow card, setting off a tussle between Timbers and Sounders players that never went beyond smack talk and light shoving. The true physicality of the match came in the run of play, however, with bodies hitting the turf on both ends all night.

Seattle nearly found the equalizer in the 85th minute as a header from Jackson Ragen took a wicked bounce off the crossbar and down before being cleared away from the danger zone near Timbers goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic. Portland had a handful of chances to make it 3-1 down the stretch but didn’t, and Seattle couldn’t quite put a quality run together again.

After eight grueling minutes of stoppage time, the Timbers emerged victorious.

“Today we understood the importance of this game for our people, for our fans,” Blanco said. “And we played this game as a final. So I am very proud of my teammates, for everybody who worked hard today. We deserved this win. A lot.”

With six games remaining in the regular season, Portland’s next match is on the road at Austin FC on Wednesday, with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m. PT at Q2 Stadium (TV on Fox 12 Plus).

-- Ryan Clarke, rclarke@oregonian.com

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