- Jan. 4, 2012
Though Portland Timbers have a long history with Montreal Impact, there was a Montreal club that opposed the Timbers as early as 1982. Montreal Manic were born in 1981 after Philadelphia Fury finished its three-year run in the NASL and moved north. Montreal had an initial run in the NASL with Olympique, a club playing at Autostade from 1971-73. That team featured the likes of Graham Souness and Clive Charles.
Back in 1981, Le Manic brought the NASL back to Montreal, this time in the Olympic Stadium, which was built in the intervening years for the 1976 Summer Games. With five divisions and twenty-one clubs in the 1981 NASL, the Timbers never faced the Manic in their debut season, waiting instead for the 1982 season. In what was the final campaign in the top flight for twenty-nine years, Portland opposed Montreal Manic twice in 1982.
Early in the season, it was not yet certain that the Timbers would fold at the end of the year. Though the were certainly signs of demise, a successful season, particularly after their qualification for the playoffs in 1981, might have saved the Timbers for at least another year.
Following a 5-0 rout of rival Vancouver Whitecaps just six days prior, the Timbers hosted Le Manic for the only time, May 8, 1982, in front of 11,786. Coached by Eddie Firmani, already a thorn in the Timbers side dating to his Soccer Bowl ’75 triumph at the helm of Tampa Bay Rowdies, Montreal had just shed their problematic forward, Gordon Hill. Le Manic were loose and did just enough to take a 40th minute lead. From a Fran O’Brien through ball, Andrew Parkinson found room between defender Young Jeung Cho and goalkeeper Bill Irwin, stopped short and chipped his shot easily into the net. The Timbers dominated the second half but simply could not find a way to score, less than a week after a Ron Futcher hat-trick.
In late July, Portland made their only trip to Montreal and the cavernous Olympic Stadium. 15,401 turned up to see Le Manic again defeat the 10-13 Timbers. The loss was the eighth of nine 1-0 defeats on the season for Portland as Dragan Vujovic chipped Bill Irwin after another Fran O’Brien pass cut through the Timbers defense in the 35th minute. Portland nearly secured a last-second equalizer as Greg Ion played Dale Mitchell into the box, but the Canadian duo could not quite manage, acting out a sort of microcosm of the Timbers’ final season, and indeed NASL franchise history.
Though ignominious in results, the clashes with Le Manic help to define the era for the Timbers. With top flight competition set for a return in 2012, the thirty years since the original Portland-Montreal matches are worth remembering.