When I came to Portland in 2013 to interview at Vernier, Jackie took me to a Timbers game. She gave me a scarf to wear, and the Timbers won that night, with Diego Valeri making the winning goal.
I was hooked.
Jackie has season tickets to the Portland Timbers, in the General Admission section of the North End of the stadium, where the Timbers Army makes its home. There is only one of Jackie, and she is generous enough to let me buy her other ticket most of the time. So I have made it to most home games (missing a couple due to travel) this year.
The year started out iffy for the Timbers. They struggled to be “above the red line” for most of the season. The red line refers to the line drawn between the top six teams in the Western division of Major League Soccer and the teams below, who will not play in the post-season. But being a Timbers fan is not a fair weather proposition. The Timbers Army loves the team, rain or shine, goals or no. Of course, there are many complaints if the goals don’t come, but we stick by our team!
But the end of the season was a different story. Head coach Caleb Porter changed up the starting lineup and the team’s formation on the field, putting striker Fanendo Adi up front, backed by Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe. The back line was anchored by Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell, who stopped many shots before they even made it to goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey. The Timbers inched up the rankings, and made the playoffs!
At the end of October, the Timbers were playing Sporting Kansas City at home, in the first round of the playoffs. This game was either win or go home, and I had already arranged to take a short vacation in Sunriver, OR, South of Bend. Greg and I found the bar where the local Timbers fans gathered to watch, and it was a very exciting game. The game ended in a tie, resulting in two additional 15-minute game periods. These ended in a tie, and the tie was settled by penalty kicks. This is when the players take turns facing off against the other team’s goalie, to try to kick the ball into the goal from close range. You may have seen this video (The part at 11:20 is amazing):
The Timbers went on to beat the Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas (FC stands for Football Club) and made it to the MLS Cup final game, against the Columbus Crew in Columbus, OH. While a couple thousand Timbers fans traveled to that game, most of us did not. Here are two photos from that day:
The Timbers won on Sunday, December 6th. On Monday, the team traveled back to Portland and were greeted at the airport by a mob of fans. On Tuesday, fans thronged Broadway in Portland to see the team and the cup! I was one of many who left work at lunchtime to be there for the team.
I remember when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. A lot of students and teachers ditched school to attend the parade in Philadelphia. I went to work, and covered half-empty classes for missing teachers. I was a little resentful. I was pleased to join this celebration for the Timbers, though! It was a lot of fun, in steady rain!
Later that day, at about 6 PM, there was a rally in the stadium. Coffee, hot dogs, and cocoa were free, and the crowd chanted and sang. Timber Joey and his predecessor Timber Jim each cut a slice off the big log (which traveled by truck to Columbus and back) for the players who scored the goals in the final game: Diego Valeri (who scored within the first 30 seconds of the game) and Rodney Wallace. George Fochive taught the crowd a new chant, Liam Ridgewell dropped the F-bomb at least 6 times, and there were short speeches by the mayor of Portland Charlie Hales and the team owner Merritt Paulson. The team saluted the Timbers Army, and a good time was had by all in the wind and the rain!
Soccer is over until Spring, and team rosters are changing. There is no knowing what the future brings. We hope it brings another MLS Cup to Portland!