Here are the ten things we learned from Week 25 of the 2017 MLS season.
1. The King of Rivalries
The third and final MLS Rivalry Week came and went this weekend, with editions of the 401 Derby, the Rocky Mountain Cup, the Hudson River Derby, the Texas Derby, and the California Clasico all on show.
They were plenty entertaining. But of the marquee games, the Red Bulls couldn’t sell out their stadium for their game against NYCFC. The StubHub Center was barely half full for LA Galaxy against San Jose.
The truth is that one rivalry continues to stand head and shoulders above the rest. On Sunday night, in the weekend’s finale, its showpiece event, more than 50,000 fans packed CenturyLink Field for a thrilling game between Portland and Seattle.
There is no other part of the continent where soccer matters, where it leads, like it does in Cascadia – and there is no rivalry on the continent that can match the history, the enmity, and the sheer size of Portland against Seattle.
We saw another firecracker between the two teams on Sunday night, and, the way things are going, a playoff series in November isn’t at all out of the question. We should be so lucky.
2. Portland Looks For Real
Entering Sunday night, Portland had lost every game it had played at CenturyLink Field dating back to the 2013.
In fact, in their entire MLS history, the Timbers had never won a regular season game in Seattle – and while they didn’t win on Sunday night, the 1-1 draw they got didn’t feel far away.
Portland dominated the first half, conceding only on a fairly bizarre goalmouth scramble, and was well worth its point. All of the sudden, the Timbers are on a nice run – unbeaten in three, with three wins and two draws in their last six.
The defense, aided by the addition of Larrys Mabiala, has made huge strides from where it was in the summer, while the attack – led by Diego Valeri, who, with goals in six straight games, is in the best form of his considerable career – remains one of the league’s best.
Most importantly, though, the Timbers seem to be toughening up and believing again, as they did in the early spring, that they can play with and beat any club in the league. They’re going to make their fair share of noise from here on in.