Timbers intensify schedule with L.A. Galaxy, Sunderland matches

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland Timbers have bolstered their 2005 schedule with a pair of significant exhibition matches announced today. The Timbers will play host to the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer on Wednesday, April 13, and Sunderland AFC of the English League Championship on Saturday, July 23.

Both matches will be played at PGE Park at 7 p.m.

"Our success both on and off the pitch, particularly last season, has put us in an excellent position to grow our business,” said Timbers general manager Jim Taylor. “Adding both Sunderland of England and the L.A. Galaxy of MLS to our schedule speaks volumes about the growth of the Portland Timbers. It's shaping up to be a most exciting season."

Tickets for both exhibition matches go on sale on Tuesday, March 1, and will be available for purchase at area Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at (503) 224-4400 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Additionally, both the Sunderland and Galaxy matches are included in a special five-game ticket plan that is currently available by calling the Timbers’ ticket office at (503) 553-5555.

Sunderland, a club steeped in tradition with its history dating back to 1879, is one of the top teams in the English League Championship, the second division of professional soccer in England, a country known throughout the world for its top level of play.

Winners of the 2002 MLS Cup, the Galaxy have made four appearances in the league’s title game in nine seasons and mark their second trip to PGE Park in Portland. The April 13 match also features the return of former Timbers forward Alan Gordon, the reigning A-League (now USL First Division) Rookie of the Year who signed with Los Angeles during the off-season after being loaned to the MLS club in September 2004.

“What a wonderful opportunity for our supporters to observe soccer at the highest level and for our players to compete against some of the best players in the United States and England,” Timbers head coach Bobby Howe said. “This is great news for the city and for the Portland Timbers. The Galaxy is one of the most successful teams in MLS and Sunderland is well placed to clinch promotion to the English Premiership.”

Known as the Black Cats, Sunderland is currently in third place in its bid for promotion to English Premiership, a league filled with many of the world’s elite players and teams, including Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. The top two clubs from the English League Championship at season’s end will make the jump, with a third club earning a bid through a playoff between teams three through six in the standings.

The Sunderland match coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Timbers, who regularly faced off against top teams from England as a member of the North American Soccer League, 1975-82.

Sunderland’s trip to PGE Park is the final stop of a three-city North American tour that also includes matches against the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders.

The Galaxy match will give Portland soccer fans a chance to see MLS and international stars in Chris Albright, Cobi Jones, Jovan Kirovski, Carlos Ruiz, along with emerging talents in Joseph Ngwenya, Ned Grabavoy and Gordon.

A fan favorite at PGE Park and a former standout at Oregon State, Gordon amassed 17 goals with the Timbers in 2004 to garner all-league honors while leading Portland to an 18-7-3 record, the top mark in the A-League during the regular season.

Gordon won’t be the only player facing his former team, as Portland defender Scot Thompson spent two seasons with the Galaxy before being loaned to Portland in 2004. Thompson signed a two-year deal with the Timbers last month.

"We look forward to traveling to Portland to play against the Timbers," said Doug Hamilton, president and general manager of the Galaxy. "Our organizations have always enjoyed a great relationship, which can only be bettered by meeting one another on the field."

The two clubs have met once before, with the Timbers defeating the Galaxy 2-1 in a preseason exhibition at PGE Park on April 9, 2002. Since their return in 2001, the Timbers are 2-1 against MLS teams.

Both matches are included in an expanded season-ticket plan that features all 17 home games for 2005. These plans and several other convenient ticket packages are currently available by calling at (503) 553-5555.