The MLS Cup is the prize that crowns the American soccer champions each season, with the winners decided through a play-off format. Portland’s own Timbers have won the sport’s major prize just once in their 11-year history, though the team did recently set a benchmark for potential future success with victory in the recent MLS is Back Cup.
This win comes five years after their last MLS Cup triumph and two years after they finished runner-up. In this article, we will relive that famous campaign of 2015, including its highs, lows, and discuss the trends behind soccer’s growing popularity in the Mid-West.
Soccer’s growing popularity in Portland
Known internationally as football, the game of soccer has grown in popularity on a local level since the establishment of the Timbers in 2009. Providence Park, which today serves as a dedicated soccer arena, serves as perhaps the most emphatic indicator of how far the sport has come.
The MLS as a competition has evolved to be recognized as one of the best in the world, attracting some of the world’s best players, with notable recent examples including David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kaka.
The rise of the beautiful game in America has also coincided with America’s broader integration into international sporting culture, with games like rugby also gaining a small foothold this side of the Atlantic.
On another level, the deregulation of sports betting is providing a new platform for soccer fans in the US to engage with some of the biggest leagues in the world, such as the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A. You can get more info here on the websites available that are offering this service.
A season of glory
Kaka was among the marquee names to feature in the 2015 campaign that proved so memorable for the Timbers, with Spaniard David Villa and Irishman Robbie Keane adding to the list of international stars taking to the field.
Led by young manager Caleb Porter and captained by Canada’s Will Johnson, the Timbers outfit featured fewer big names than many of their rivals, which made their achievements that season even more special.
A positive regular season campaign saw the Timbers finish up in third place, behind FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps, with Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City making up the six.
With a record of 15-11-3, the third-placed finish saw Portland advance to the knock-out round, where they would face KC. There was nothing between the two sides in their meeting at Providence Stadium, with a penalty shoot-out settling matters following a 2-2 tie.
The Conference semi-finals would be played over two legs, with Western Conference runners-up Vancouver the Timbers’ next opponents. A 0-0 draw in the first leg was followed by a 2-0 victory for Portland, which secured their spot in the Conference Finals.
This time, a comfortable 3-1 win in the first game laid a handy platform for Porter’s men to grind out a 2-2 tie in the return match to seal their passage into the final, where they’d face Columbus Crew.
The Timbers made an incredible start to the biggest game of the season, netting in the very first minute through Diego Valeri, and then going further in front just six minutes later courtesy of Rodney Wallace. Kei Kamara responded for the Crew on 18 minutes, but our boys held on to secure a famous win.
Although the Timbers have been unable to repeat the feat in the years that followed, with coach Porter leaving the clubjust two seasons later, the 2015 Championship has played a huge role in building the sport’s momentum in this pocket of the country.