For Auld Lang Syne: Friendly rivals meet once again
When Vancouver comes to town, the Cascadia rivalry takes a friendly turn. There are plenty of Timbers fans who can spot the old Whitecaps faces in the streets around JELD-WEN Field, where the Canadians have been welcome for at least a decade.
Timbers Army regular Lucas Grzybowski has enjoyed many Whitecaps visits. His first game was against Vancouver in 2002. “The Timbers scored a late one and referee Brian Hall disallowed the goal,” said Grzybowski. “The crowd turned ugly. That’s part of what brought me back, the passion.”
He gestures to the white and blue masses in the corner.
“You recognize the fans’ faces. The thirty-something couple, the guy with the beard, the two Indian guys, the father and son pair," says Grzybowski. "Or you get to know people by their online nicknames, like Guttergbob and Krammerhead.”
“Don’t forget Evil Bert,” added his section 207 bench mate Tye Ortega. Evil Bert apparently dresses in all-white and carries a Bert doll around. In the Internet Age it’s easy to research such partial-strangers as rival fans.
John Knox (aka Johnny Monster), the president of the 600-strong Vancouver Southsiders supporters group, says the trip to Portland is always the highlight of their year. “Seattle is a rushed trip, but Portland is an overnighter so we mingle with the Timbers Army,” he said as he drove down on Friday. “There’s a lot of fun to be had in Portland.”
Knox says of this Portland game, “People have caught on to how important the history is with Portland. For many of our 500 travelling fans it’s their first away game and I can’t think of a better experience to get a handle on MLS.”
He said Vancouver fans are a “pretty well-behaved” bunch. “Someone who’s in it to cause trouble isn’t going to make the trip to Portland.” As for the Canuck hockey riots of the spring, Knox said, “It was a sheer embarrassment for the city. Other countries were overthrowing dictators and here are we kicking in windows for flat screen TV…”
Soon after arriving in Portland, Knox received a parking ticket and an unpaid MAX fare ticket. At kick off he was in high spirits though.
“I’d say the energy here is more intense than at Seattle. I can tell everyone’s juiced up. It’s more of a supporter group than a spectator group.”
At the game Knox was standing near Southsider capo Zachary Adam Meisenheimer – a big, bearded man who has been here multiple times--he has even stood twice with Timbers Army in Portland-Seattle games.
“Having 500 people here is better than three or four or five of us,” said Meisenheimer.
Other Vancouver fans were more wide eyed about their trip to JELD-WEN.
Two Whitecaps season ticket holders, Eric Domeier and his pal Chad Galitzky, were walking to the ground. “We went into the Bitter End and we‘re talking to fans, you know this whole thing about the Timber Army, great people, great atmosphere, we had great conversations," said Domeier. It was their first Portland away game. “We love the city, we eat we drink, we harass Timbers fans, and we shop. Well, our girlfriends shop.”
The game was a sweet win for one new MLS 2011 team over the other.
Talking animatedly outside NW 20th Place after the game were Timbers fans, Nicola Lowe and a Mr. Wielgosz. They had just bumped into the aforementioned famous Vancouver father and son pair, Rob England and Wolf England.
“We’ve known them for four years,” said Lowe, as she showed off old photos on her phone.
“We like coming here,” said England senior, who has been following the Whitecaps for decades. “The Timbers fans always welcomed us win or lose, in the Bull Pen and the Bitter End.”
The Timbers-Whitecaps rivalry is heated by the two cities being only six hours apart. However, it’s made friendly by a familiarity and mutual respect between the longtime supporters.