The Long Green Line

Thursday night's 1-0 victory over Puerto Rico was a turning point in the Portland Timbers saga.

Clive Charles . . .
Bernie Fagan . . .
Bill Irwin . . .
Clyde Best . . .
Jimmy Conway . . .
Brett Sancho . . .
Scott Benedetti . . .
Josh Saunders . . .
Byron Alvarez . . .
Hugo Alcarez-Cuellar . . .
Gavin Wilkinson . . .
Alan Gordon . . .
Scot Thompson . . .
Timber Jim . . .

These are some of the more memorable names that are among the multitudes forming the Long Green Line of Portland Timbers. Stretching back to the team’s North American Soccer League origins, the line continues to over a century of Portland clubs. Teams like the “Winged A’s” of the Multnomah Athletic Club, Clan McLeay and Sellwood Soccer Club are part of Timbers heritage. They are all Portland soccer history.

This history and legacy was on proud display Thursday night as the 2010 regular season home schedule came to a close here at PGE Park against the Puerto Rico Islanders with a thrilling 1-0 Timbers victory. Pomp and circumstance was the rule of the day. The Timbers Army—many decked out in their formal best—cheered throughout the match with characteristic vigor behind a new banner proudly stating, "Yesterday, Today, Forever."  Bagpipers marched in style, the one millionth Timbers fan of the USL/USSF 2nd Division era was welcomed through the turnstiles, pennants were given away, prizes raffled off to fans, and players’ jerseys auctioned right off their backs.

The play on the field reflected this energy as well. The 2010 Timbers put on a show of attacking and exciting soccer with slants, throughballs, and headers. The legendary Timber Jim—retired from the field but still among the most stalwart of fans—led the Timbers Army in thundering renditions of "We Are The Timbers" and his trademark song "You Are My Sunshine" while fans waved special sunflowers to commemorate the evening.

Feeding off this energy, it was but mere minutes later that Doug DeMartin delivered a beautiful cross to the full speed diving head of Ryan Pore who buried it into the back of the net. The crowd eruped across the stadium, sunflowers showered the North End, and Timber Joey sliced the traditional log with wild abandon. The Timbers held steadfast for the win and the team gleefully walked their post-game lap of thanks around the pitch recognizing the Timbers Army and fans across the stands. Hugs were plentiful and smiles abundant. It was a most definitely memorable evening.

With all this celebration occurring, it is clear that the Portland Timbers saga is at a turning point. Major League Soccer sits invitingly on the horizon and with it comes a whole new frontier of soccer. In addition, the city of Portland welcomes a second major league franchise—no small feat.

While the team moves towards this goal, there is something to be said for the tradition and authenticity of the Timbers soccer that has come before it.  There is no doubt that the names above along with this season's squad have donned the Timbers kit with pride, skill, grit, panache, and style. They are all a true testament to the Long Green Line. 

The spirit of that Line, even with the arrival of MLS, will mean that much will remain familiar next season. The stadium has the same address. The pitch will still have two goals. Timber Joey will continue to fire up his chainsaw. The Timbers Army will still be in the North End.

And they will still be loud.

But there will also be a great deal that is new.

To begin with, when players, teams, and fans return to PGE Park in 2011, there will be a gleaming new eastern stand with a better situated field, a shining new video scoreboard, and better amenities throughout. There’s brand new jerseys being created by adidas designers complete with the new team logo and new sponsor Alaska Airlines. And then there’s the charismatic new head coach John Spencer teaming up with the sage Timbers veteran Gavin Wilkinson as technical director to help lead the way.

Most noticeable and certainly exciting, however, will be the players on the field. While there may be some familiar faces and fan favorites on the squad, there will also be a host of new names to celebrate. New alchemic wizards with the ability to will the ball at their feet to unbeliveable flights of fancy will be lining up against the likes of Donovan, Henry, Ching, Marquez, and Beckham, among others.  These players are among the best in North America—some perhaps among the best in the world.

And they will be here.

On this hallowed ground.

Sprinting, kicking, striving, creating moves of visual genius, and giving their all; all in the hopes of creating the next chapter. Thursday night was definitely a turning point. We remembered the past, celebrated the present, and look forward to the future.

The Long Green Line continues.

Photo by Michael Stringfield