Timbers players and fans get together for third annual Kick-off Luncheon
As the 2013 Portland Timbers March 3rd season opener against New York Red Bulls fast approaches, the club took some time today to formally introduce the squad to members of the business and soccer community at the Third Annual Portland Timbers Kick-off Luncheon co-hosted by the team, the Portland Business Alliance and Alaska Airlines at the Multnomah Athletic Club.
Emceed by Fox 12 Oregon’s Wayne Garcia, the event was both a fundraiser for the Portland Timbers Community Fund and other community relations initiatives through the Stand Together platform as well as a way for supporters to meet and greet the team.
“It’s fun. It’s another opportunity to get the group together in a more relaxed atmosphere than trainings and meetings and games,” said Timbers midfielder Will Johnson. “That interaction with fans is unique and we don’t get to have it nearly enough.”
Host Garcia introduced each player on stage and fans learned a little bit more about the 2013 squad. Defender Rodney Wallace was his typically stylish self, goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was talked into showing off his dance moves, but perhaps most impressively, defender Michael Harrington dropped an improvised on-the-fly beatbox rendition of the Tetris theme—a favorite tune and chant of the Timbers Army.
“We like to be a club that’s very successful and that’s very much a part of the community,” said Timbers COO Mike Golub. “This is a good opportunity to officially kick off the season by introducing the team to our fans and members of the community.
“One of the chief objectives is to be accessible and to be down to earth. This is a way to do that.”
Timbers owner and president Merritt Paulson spoke to the audience as well as new head coach Caleb Porter. Both spoke about the desire to build a winning team while Porter emphasized his strong belief that Portland has the best fans in Major League Soccer--a key reason in his choosing to accept the head coaching position.
"It's going to take time, but we're going to have extremely high expectations here," said Porter. "Trust me, we're going to get there and eventually, we're going to be in the mix to win an MLS Cup."
Following the luncheon, fans were able to chat with players and coaches. Autographs were given and numerous photos with players were taken.
In Johnson’s case, the interaction with fans had an added benefit. After coming over in the offseason in a trade with Real Salt Lake, one of the team’s newest members found his tablemates to be a good source of information about his new home city.
“We had a talkative table with a bunch of local, born and raised Portlanders,” he said. “They were giving me little tips to help me settle in with the family. I haven’t come across too many unfriendly people around these parts.”