Fans--new, longtime, and away--all enjoy opening night
With the inaugural MLS season opener for the Portland Timbers on the line, fans had lined up in the rain outside JELD-WEN Field Thursday night many hours before the game. The atmosphere in the street - and on the digital street, Twitter - was of disbelief that the moment of the Timbers first MLS game was really here.
Forty-five minutes before kickoff, in the Bitter End Pub opposite the stadium, David Morrison was waiting for his friends. “I’m hoping for at least a draw, and expecting a win,” he said. He’s been a Timbers fans since moving here from San Jose in 2008.
“Chicago’s always been a great team, but with the atmosphere tonight I expect at least a 2 to nil margin for the Timbers.”
Others in the bar were just as optimistic.
Jeff Burgess said he expected a win, especially with Darlington Nagbe and Sal Zizzo back in the action. “I watched Chicago play against Seattle. Seattle put up a good match, but Chicago look beatable.” The rain was irrelevant. “If you’re going to play ball in the Northwest you better learn to play in the rain.”
Dave Cakarnis was also expecting a spectacle.
“It’ll be really rowdy, and I expect a win,” he said. “We need a win right?” he asked, half rhetorically, half hopefully. He’s been a Timbers fan for the last couple of years, sitting in section 121.
“I expect us to finish in the top half of the league, and I hope we beat Seattle. As long as we’re competitive it should be a good year.”
Just before the kickoff, high in the North End, Dennis Bishop was almost beside himself. He’s a season ticket holder now in his fourth year of going to games.
“I just want to have a great time. The place looks absolutely beautiful, the place looks gorgeous.” A fan of the German Bundesliga, he likened it to a European soccer experience.
“It feels like a true soccer pitch, there’s no holes in the grass, there’s no pitcher’s mound in the middle of the pitch!”
At half time the Timbers were 2-0 up and Jon Demars was waiting in the concessions line under the west stand.
“This is incredible, it’s non-stop action, there’s a lot of emotion, a lot of intensity.” He was also pleasantly surprised. “I didn’t expect to see 2 zip in the first half. It should be 3 but we had one taken away.”
He was sitting in a dry part of section 122. “I’m not a regular, but hopefully I will be,” said Demars.
Up in the away supporters section given to Chicago Fire fans, overlooked by the gym users of the Multnomah Athletic Club, Fire fan Ed Titus from Chicago was still cheerful. “It’s great, I’ve never been to Portland before. Nice town, great stadium and the crowd is great.”
He and fellow Section 8 Fire fans already know some Timbers Army people.
Ethan Faure, also in Portland for a couple of days, said, “The Fire have looked atrocious thus far, though it pains me to say it. But there are still 45 minutes to go, we can at least grab a point.”
Faure had been to the stadium in 2009. “I had an absolute blast then, it’s a fantastic location, terrific atmosphere.” He’s staying with a Timbers fan he made on that occasion, then hurrying back to Chicago for Sunday’s LA Galaxy game.He goes to 6 or 7 Fire away games a season.
“It’s great to be a part of another stadium opening. All this for soccer!” he says, looking around, before launching into the Pogues’ song “Dirty Old Town.”
In the Widmer Brothers Southern Front, Rhonda Irwin was standing on a metal chair, alternately watching the action on the field and on the video behind her. “I think it’s fantastic, the rain isn’t doing much to dampen spirits.” She won her tickets at her work (Intel) and it was here first pro soccer game.
“The kiddoes here both play,” she said, gesturing to her daughters.
Samantha Irwin, age 9, sat in her rain cape, “It’s my first game, and it’s fun,” she said. She knew the score was 3-0 and expected a win, but as she spoke a frustrated groan went through the crowd. “What happened?” she asked.
“They scored,” her mom informed her.
Another soggy Intel worker with a big smile was Chimmaoi Joshi. “It’s really exciting, I am really sad the first goal was ruled out,” Joshi said.
He took part in the unfurling of a giant Timbers banner before the game, organized through work. He’s a design engineer from near Mumbai. “This is my first Timbers game. I’ve not yet been to a Blazers game,” he said. “I’m new to the city, I arrived a year, maybe a couple of years back.”
Another Chicago goal went in, making it 3-2 Timbers. “We have to score two more, to be on safer side,” he said laughing.
At 10:40 pm, with the crowd dispersed, Matt Talley was standing by the taco truck outside Stadium Flowers. He was ecstatic, likening the event to Christmas as a kid.
“This was walking downstairs and seeing that BMX in the middle of the living room,” said Talley. “This was, walking away, more excited than I’ve been in my entire life, my wedding day and college graduations pale in comparison.”
How did he feel when the Fire’s second goal went in?
“I was scared for a minute, I’m not going to lie. We’ve been Portland fans for a long time and we’ve had some horrible things happen to us over the years,” said Talley.
At this point a friend came up and shouted in his face “We broke tifo!” Meaning the pregame banner display was unbeatable.
The fan experience also lived up to the hype. Tally was a capo (cheerleader) in front of section 102 and 103.
“I was genuinely surprised how much those sections brought it. A lot of them were new faces, and those guys brought the passion like I couldn’t believe. It makes me think Timbers Army is going all the way to [section] 123 one of these days.”
He’s looking forward.
“It was utterly incredible. But Sunday we’re going to bring it even harder, I’m going to whip my crew into better shape. There’s a crescendo in October.”