Portland plays host, Thursday night, April 14th for Major League Soccer‘s national spotlight match vs the Chicago Fire. Portland’s famous downtown PGE Park, is remodeled and expanded into shiny new JELD-WEN Field. Another exceptional soccer only stadium accomplishment for patient and successfully expanding Major League Soccer.
Rose City turns, “Portlandia”, crazy for its inaugural Major League season home match. As wildly fictional, and comically pleasing as the hip TV series, “Portlandia” has become, the inaugural season Rose City soccer club provides an equally exciting, non-fiction, real world contrast. Yes, Timbers are hip, cool and posing sexy in plaid. Their fans are real deal soccer. No fiction. No comedy. No Pity. You want soccer supporter chant, then go Portland. You want nice and polite people, then park and walk the Pearl District by day. Because JELD-WEN Field will be rocking with barely controlled intensity, and a wild ruckus fever come 8:00 kickoff.
“Take No Pity in the Rose City”. Ask directions to Powell bookstore. Ask how good Voodoo Doughnut really is. Ask when the next city bus is coming. You may well have twenty Portlandians help you with bus times, directions, which five books to buy, the dozen doughnuts you “MUST” have, and possibly offer their bikes to you if buses are running late. You will feel an instant residential citizenship to Portland. Unless you commit one of the three evil grudges. Three things you never do: Ask directions to Starbucks, ask anything about Seattle, or mention the name, Roger Levesque. If you do, you will wake up feeling more Voodoo than doughnut.
For many people, soccer gatherings with excited soccer supporters only equals, “hooligans”. A term no longer considered appropriate or even humorous to Seattle and Portland supporters. Both clubs supporter groups recently went above and beyond to show class efforts in demonstrating how a few guidelines allow for intensity and passion to be demonstrated with a kind of excitement you can describe as fun and controlled. Not disconcerting and reckless. Prost America Soccer, published on their site a list of “Do’s and Don’t's” that Portland Timbers supporters put together for Thursday nights inaugural season home match. A bit contrived, it sends a definitive signal that passionate soccer fans know how to behave as first class supporters.
See: Timbers Army send out right signals to newcomers, by Prost Amerika Soccer
As intensely bitter as the Sounders and Timbers rivalry is, Thursday nights instant classic is a rare opportunity to put all rivalry aside. Portland represents the best example of a passionate small market sports franchise city. Their growth is the growth of Major League Soccer and more importantly, the growth of soccer in America. While Sounders FC established new standards for launching a sports franchise, effectively rooted in the growth and success of Major League Soccer, Portland represents the first of what hopefully becomes expansion for an additional 10-20 similar sized American cities. Cities too small for NFL, are perfectly situated for 20,000 soccer only stadiums over the next 10-15 years. Seattle’s self-proclaimed “Capital of Soccer in America”, and Portland’s self-proclaimed “Soccer City USA”, surprisingly don’t conflict. In all fairness to both clubs supporters, the proclamations are fair reflections of their supporters truth and dedication to the growth of the league.
Timber Jim, begins sawing logs in earnest on Thursday night. It’s the first match since 1982 where Portland Timbers are playing in a top-tier professional American soccer league. Major League Soccer has been on a slower rise than the former NASL. The league has risen at a deliberately controlled pace keeping profitability and growth on a leash. Portland and Vancouver, both 2011 expansion teams, represent the 17th & 18th teams in MLS. Montreal Impact, will be the 19th addition next year.
Timber fan Don’ts: Use any pompoms, have a dance squad, or use colorful laser-beams mixed with electronica dance music for player introductions. Timber fan Do’s: Stand and chant for the full 90, intimidate opposing teams with flag waving and smoke, have a Timber with a chainsaw, who cuts to excite the crowd, including complete round cut slices each time a goal is scored. The fortunate goal-poachers raise these slices above their head at the conclusion of home matches.
Will you learn anything tomorrow watching the Timbers inaugural home match? I hope not. I truly, madly, deeply hope you do not learn a thing. I hope you are entertained. I hope you watch the best reality TV ever produced for a mid-week prime time slot. I hope you realize how quickly soccer comes to conclusion compared to Major League Baseball, Golf or all other American sports. I hope, like a delicious dish of dessert, you realize how wildly unpredictable this team sport is. I hope you cherish the creativity of the game and its surrounding atmosphere. So much so, you want to take in the live experience for yourself at a match like the one Portland will host Thursday night. In your home town. I hope you want to be like Portland.
Say it with me, “Take No Pity In The Rose City”.