Tucson Away Portraits: Portland Timbers fans travel and support their team in Arizona
Saturday’s preseason match with Sporting Kansas City drew hundreds of fans at the newly constructed North Field at the Kino Sports Complex. While the ground was initially constructed as a spring training complex for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox of Major League Baseball, the facility has morphed to become the home field for USL Premier Development League (PDL) side FC Tucson as well as a home base for MLS teams in preseason preparation.
Between The Desert Friendlies, The Desert Diamond Cup and numerous other individual preseason matches that attract myriad MLS teams, the month of February has grown into a soccer fan’s mini mecca in Tucson.
And where there are Timbers matches, there are Timbers fans to be had. Whether it be supporters from Portland, ex-Portlanders now back in Tucson, travelers from other parts of Arizona or a unique family connection, Timbers fans show their support. Here is a series of fan portraits from Saturday’s preseason game.
Andrew and Janet Archer
Wearing a Timbers Army scarf and sitting in the newly built covered bleachers of the Kino North Field, Andrew Archer was a one-time Timbers regular at games in Portland who has since moved back to Tucson.
“I was born and raised [in Tucson],” said Andrew. “[We] lived in Portland for a while, fell in love with the Timbers pre-MLS, and have stuck with them ever since.”
"I used to be a season ticket holder up there for the first two years of MLS and three years prior [to moving back].”
Though returning to his hometown was a welcome development, the long distance separating him from his much-loved Timbers does have its problems.
“It’s more painful, as [my wife can attest],” he said. “My TV gets really loud because I get the volume up again for the crowd. It’s just hard because I always want to be [in Portland].”
But the Timbers Arizona arrival in the Archers’ backyard helps considerably for both Andrew and his wife Janet.
“It’s incredible,” said Andrew. “Every time we can, we come out for this.”
Janet heartily agrees. “It makes my life more bearable,” she said with a laugh. “It’s cheaper than flying to Portland.”
Todd and Lauren Mickelsen
A few rows down from the Archers, Todd and his teenage daughter Lauren sat eagerly anticipating the match. Clad in Timbers jerseys and scarves, the pair had traveled all the way down from Portland.
“My daughter had a couple of days off for school grade prep Thursday and Friday so we came down on a long weekend to watch our beloved Timbers,” said Todd.
The away trip was a first for the Mickelsens who are season ticket holder back in Oregon. With this trip under their belts though, they’re talking about heading to Seattle or possibly Vancouver for a journey in the regular season.
Lauren, who's followed the team for "a long time," says her favorite player is midfielder Diego Chara.
“[Chara] always works his hardest and is really feisty and can always get the ball,” she said.
On a nice cool night in the desert, the two were happy to be able to spend time together.
“First time we’ve traveled [to a game] together,” said Todd. “What a wonderful bonding experience for me and my 14-year old daughter.”
Troy and Devon Polzin
Positioned right behind the Timbers bench, Troy Polzin and his teenage son Devon watched the team warm ups from a very close vantage point. Soccer fans through and through, the Polzins drove for an hour from their home in Casa Grande, Ariz to watch the evening's game in Tucson.
Two years ago, they made an even longer road trip north to Portland hitting a number of MLS stadiums along the way. The Timbers experience, however, was their favorite.
“Being able to walk into the stadium and people being there at 4:30 in the morning in the Timbers Army was just amazing,” said father Troy. “And just how welcoming the people are to you. It was awesome.”
The Polzins' Timbers support is also connected to Portland captain Will Johnson. When Devon was five—he’s now 12—they traveled to Chicago to see a CD Chivas Guadalajara-Real Madrid friendly and a Chicago Fire match. While there, the Fire held a meet-and-greet with players where Devon got his photo taken with Johnson. Then a rookie, Johnson went on to make his MLS debut in a match against the Columbus Crew which the Polzins witnessed. Since then, they’ve followed his career with Real Salt Lake and now the Timbers.
Between the Johnson connection and Troy explaining that Portland has “the best fans,” the two were excited for the preseason match. Devon, proudly wearing his Rose City Red jersey, had only one request for the evening.
“A goal,” he said.
The Bakewell Family
Devon got his wish as Timbers forward Schillo Tshuma added a late equalizer in the game to pull the Timbers even.
The strike sparked an even louder celebration from a small group in the stands. Holding up a four-foot tall poster of Tshuma’s face throughout the match, the Bakewell family cheered heartily following the goal.
How did this Timbers rookie already generate such a fan base and homemade poster?
“Schillo is our cousin,” explained Luke Bakewell after the game.
“Well, sort of,” added Luke’s mother Colleen. “My twin sister is his guardian and she lives in Virginia. He happened to luckily land here where we live [for the preseason].”
Tshuma, who came to Virginia from his native Zimbabwe as part of a Grassroots Soccer charity program, lived with Kathleen Caslow—Colleen’s sister—while attending Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va. Luke Bakewell played with him while they both attended Episcopal. Following his time in Virginia, Tshuma went on to star at the University of Maryland and before becoming Portland’s first round selection in the recent 2014 MLS SuperDraft. The family was able to meet up with him after the match.
Having extended family watch Tshuma’s preseason Timbers debut was a pretty special moment for the Bakewells. Watching him score the equalizer even better.
“We were so excited,” said Colleen. “I kept saying, ‘Wouldn’t that be great if his first game, he scored a goal?’ And he did.”