Yesterday in downtown Portland, the Portland Timbers Season Kick-Off Luncheon was hosted by the Portland Business Alliance at The Nines hotel. Mayor Sam Adams joined Timbers president and owner Merritt Paulson, head coach John Spencer, general manager and technical director Gavin Wilkinson, members of the team front office as well as members of the 2011 squad at a luncheon hosted by the PBA to introduce the new Major League Soccer team to the area business community.
Emceed by 95.5 The Game’s John Strong, players were announced one-by-one and sat at tables with various business groups, companies, firms and fans, all of whom came to catch a glimpse of their new hometown soccer team.
Having spent the last month and a half in the bubble of training camp, players clearly welcomed the chance to meet with some of the public. With the season opener just over a week away, the feeling that something special is developing on the horizon is prevalent. Veteran goalkeeper Troy Perkins was impressed with not only the number of people at the luncheon, but the excitement that fans have for the upcoming season.
“I didn’t expect it to be this big; I was expecting a room half this size. But this is something special,” said Perkins.
“Everyone at the table I sat at today was just exuberant about how they’re looking forward to things getting going. And it’s only a week away. [Today is that] kickoff that said, ‘Okay. Last 10 days. We’re getting under way. Things are coming.’”
Perkins added, “Everything that’s been around this club, since I’ve been here, has been special.”
After enjoying an impressive lunch prepared by The Nines, attendees were given the chance to ask players and the coaching staff questions. Inquiries ranged from what kind of formation Spencer is considering—most likely 4-4-2—to why defender David Horst and goalkeeper Jake Gleeson had to grow mustaches (they lost out on the monthly penalty kick contest drill).
Spencer also spoke to the crowd and talked about his time spent between being announced as the team’s inaugural head coach back in August and spending the last six months feverishly and expertly building the Timbers roster.
Though Spencer has an eye towards the March 19 opener with the Colorado Rapids, he most definitely enjoyed seeing his players welcomed by the city.
“I love seeing the guys getting recognized,” said Spencer.
“I think it’s great the community is really recognizing the players here. [Portland is] a market where if they do well, they’re going to be idolized; if they don’t do well, they’re going to be under pressure. So it’s great.”
Portland public vehicles across the city have a motto emblazoned on them: The City That Works. This Portland Timbers team is no different. As the luncheon came to a close, players posed for photographs with fans and signed autographs, though the focus on soccer was never far. Spencer is working hard on keeping his group focused on the season at hand.
“I keep saying day in, day out to the guys: you can’t turn it on or off like a light switch,” he said.
With the business community working hard to better the city, know that this team will be working hard right alongside them.