Photograph by Greta Burton

Portland Timbers kick off latest MLS season

The Portland Timbers began their 2022 season on Feb. 26 at Providence Park in a hard-fought match against the New England Revolution. The drizzly match resulted in a 2-2 draw. 

During the match, the Timbers debuted their new rose-patterned plum and blush-colored kit, and were led by former Major League Soccer (MLS) forward and Head Coach Giovanni Savarese. The possession was split evenly, with the Timbers claiming 55% of action, leaving 45% to the Revolution. 

New England’s defender Brandon Bye found a chance to score off of a header, sneaking past two Portland defenders and into the goal after finding the crossbar 41 minutes in. Early into the second half, Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla, assisted by midfielder Santiago Moreno, equalized in the 60th minute and celebrated with his trademark backflip. Midfielder Sebastian Lletget quickly returned the goal and restored the Revolution’s lead in the 63rd minute. 

Forward Yimmi Chará got Timbers fans’ hopes up with a goal, until it was recalled by the sideline referee due to an offsides penalty. However, fans were not disappointed for long. In the 78th minute Chará bicycle-kicked the ball, placing it in the upper left-hand corner of the goal for the MLS-chosen Moment of the Match.

The Revolution nearly won due to a shot in the 97th minute from striker Adam Buska, but the Timbers’ goalkeeper Aljaž Ivačič narrowly knocked the ball over the top of the crossbar. 

The Timbers Army was also out in full-force during the season opener. Rather than exhibit their usual eye-catching tifo display to assert their allegiance to the club, the fans donated $5,000 to organizations that support people experiencing domestic violence for the banner materials. The support comes in the aftermath of domestic violence allegations against former player Andy Polo and allegations of sexual coercion and misconduct by former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, as reported by The Oregonian. 

During the 2022 opener, both teams seemed anxious for a win after leaving the 2021 season unsatisfied. During last year’s playoffs, both teams’ seasons ended surprisingly. The Timbers snuck up the leaderboard in the Western Conference after barely qualifying for the playoffs, eventually beating Real Salt Lake 2-0 for the Conference title and a chance for the league championship. The Revolution dominated the Eastern board during a historic regular season only to lose to New York City FC in free kicks after two 15-minute periods of overtime. 

During the final match hosted at Providence Park, NYC FC clinched the MLS Cup in free kicks after the Timbers leveled the score in the final minute of regular time and sustained the tie through overtime.

Despite the outcome, last season’s championship match was historic for several reasons for Portland. It was Providence Park’s first time hosting the MLS Cup, the Timbers’ second overall appearance in the Cup, and midfielder Diego Valeri’s last showing for the club, who earned a spot on MLS’ list of the Top 25 Players of All-Time. 

As the 2022 MLS season commences, fans are witnessing the Timbers enter a new era as a club. Players to watch are the Chará siblings, Diego and Yimmi, Dairon Aprilla, Sebastián Blanco, Santiago Morena, Jarosław Niezgoda and Felipe Mora. 

During their second match of the season, the Timbers reached a draw against LAFC, 1-1. 

The Timbers are scheduled to face Austin FC at Providence Park in their third match of the season on March 12 at 7:00 p.m. 

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