PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Soccer City USA finally has a championship trophy.
The Portland Timbers and their fans celebrated the team’s first MLS Cup title on Tuesday with a parade through downtown Portland and a raucous rally at Providence Park.
Kids blew vuvuzelas, the Timbers Army supporters’ group sang, mascot Timber Joey brought his chain saw and star forward Diego Valeri filmed the festivities with a camera strapped to his head as thousands partied in a steady rain.
“This is massive! This is unbelievable,” striker Fanendo Adi said during the parade. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
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The Timbers defeated the Columbus Crew 2-1 on Sunday in Ohio. Valeri scored 27 seconds into the match for the fastest goal in MLS Cup history. Rodney Wallace added a quick second goal just seven minutes in and the Timbers held on for their first championship since joining Major League Soccer in 2011.
Back in October, there were fears that the Timbers might not make the playoffs let alone make it all the way to the title match. But Portland surged, going 6-0-3 in its last nine games in the regular season and playoffs.
Coach Caleb Porter and owner Merritt Paulson joined the players on a covered flatbed truck that navigated the crowd lining the street for the parade. When a reporter shouted questions to Porter about his thoughts, the coach put his hand over his heart. Porter came to the Timbers in 2012 after leading the University of Akron to an NCAA title in 2010.
The Timbers have been around since 1975 when they joined the NASL. Portland went to the Soccer Bowl championship match that year and despite falling to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the city’s enthusiasm for the team earned it the Soccer City USA nickname.
“You were the pioneers, you paved the way,” Porter said of those fans that had been following the team since the start 40 years ago. “And without you we would not have a team in Major League Soccer.”
Said Portland Major Charlie Hales: “Good things grow in the Oregon rain.”
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The Timbers tapped into Portland’s fierce civic pride, a hallmark of the Portland Trail Blazers’ fan base since the team won the NBA championship in 1977. Today, the Timbers have a sellout streak that has stretched to 90 straight homes games, and thousands remain on the waiting list for season tickets.
“This is you team! This is your team!” Paulson yelled at the fans who braved the rain for the rally.
The final victory of the year was not without controversy.
Just before Wallace scored, Crew midfielder Tony Tchani and several teammates stopped playing when the ball rolled several feet over the right boundary. Instead of a stoppage for a throw-in, Portland’s Darlington Nagbe kept going with the ball and sent a pass wide to Lucas Melano, who found Wallace for the diving header.
Kei Kamara, the Crew star who tied for the MLS regular-season lead in goals with 22, made it 2-1 in the 18th minute.
Another controversy? Timber Joey wasn’t able to bring his chain saw or the Timbers’ Victory Log into Mapfre Stadium.
Portland’s mascot cuts a slice off the log for every Portland goal scored at home, and the slice is presented to the player who scored. And while Joey and the log both made the trip to Columbus, the Crew hastily changed the stadium rules to ban both chain saws and “logs of any wooden variety.”
So on Tuesday, Timber Joey (Webber) cut the slices for Valeri and Wallace with the help of his beloved predecessor, Timber Jim (Serrill).
While the Timbers celebrated the win in Portland, on the other side of the country Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer wore a Timbers scarf on the House floor.
“Mr. Speaker, let me conclude by reminding all of America – and several places in Canada – that in case you didn’t get the hint with Timber Joey and his chain saw, there is no pity in the Rose City!” he said.