The Portland Timbers have won an MLS Cup, finished runner-up for another and made their historic Providence Park a place visiting teams dread during the Timbers' 11 MLS seasons.
Except maybe Minnesota United.
The Loons lost the very first MLS game they played, 5-1 at Portland in March 2017. They lost there again early the next season, 3-2 in April 2018 with a starting lineup from which only Ethan Finlay and Michael Boxall remain.
The Loons are 2-0-1 at Providence Park against a Timbers team they'll face in an MLS Cup playoffs first-round game at 4:30 p.m. (Central) on Nov. 21. The winner meets top-seeded Colorado, which has a first-round bye.
The Loons are 6-2-1 overall against Portland – 2-0 this season — in their five MLS seasons, including 4-0 at home.
They earned the MLS Cup playoffs' fifth seed on Sunday by holding off the L.A. Galaxy in a tense 3-3 draw on the road. The Timbers already had clinched the fourth seed and a first-round home playoff game.
"I feel like the matchup for us is just playing well," said Loons attacker Robin Lod, who's headed to play for his Finland national team before the playoff opener. "There is nothing to get scared about them. I have really good confidence about our team and what we are capable of doing. If we are playing close to the best we can, I feel like we have a good chance against any of the teams."
After Sunday's game in Los Angeles, Loons coach Adrian Heath was asked why his team has fared so well recently against a Timbers team that has found so much success itself since it entered MLS in 2011.
"Playing well, taking our opportunities when they arise," Heath said. "I think we match up well with them, the way we like to play."
The Loons won at Portland 3-1 to start a 2020 season soon shut down and shortened by a pandemic.
They won there 1-0 this season in June on newcomer Adrien Hunou's second-minute goal that stood up all night. It did so after kickoff was pushed back; the temperature hit 108 degrees that day during a scorching summer heat wave.
Afterward, Portland coach Gio Savarese alleged an unnamed Minnesota United player – later identified by Heath as Franco Fragapane — directed a racial slur at Timbers star Diego Chara. A week later, the league announced its investigation found the allegation was made "in good faith," but could not corroborate or refute the allegation.
In late July, the teams met again and the Loons won 2-1 in a second-half comeback at Allianz Field. Lod scored the winning goal in the 84th minute on a night Fragapane was out injured.
Now the Loons go back on the road, back to Providence Park where the Timbers went 11-4-2 in the regular season. The Timbers won their final three games – two at home – by a combined 8-1 that included a penalty kick as the only goal allowed.
Included was Portland's 3-0 home victory on Sunday over Austin FC.
"Today felt like a team that wants to get in the playoff and battle every game we're going to have," Savarese told reporters after the game.
When asked about the upcoming opponent for playoffs that begin Nov. 20, Savarese said, "They're a good team. They're a difficult team. They have some interesting players who can be dangerous."
That Loons team held off the Galaxy in Sunday's final minutes when Real Salt Lake's late winning game at Kansas City ensured one of the two teams' season was about to end. The Loons needed just a draw, the Galaxy needed a victory.
"They got what they deserved and now we go to Portland," Heath said of his players. "We've proved we can win there. When we've got our best players on the field – especially our front four – we can score goals, and we will. We'll make it difficult for teams. Portland has been really strong at home late on and the playoff-game atmosphere will be terrific in there.
"It we do take our opportunities when they arise, we can go there and win for sure."