Paying homage to the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and bringing the community together to honor the hard work and dedication put in by the Portland Police Bureau and Portland Fire & Rescue, Portland residents came out in support of the first-annual Rose City United charitable soccer match at Providence Park on Thursday night.
Contributing nearly $2,000 in donations to be split between Portland Police Bureau’s Sunshine Division and Portland Fire & Rescue’s Toy N Joy Makers – family, friends and citizens of the Rose City pulled together to cheer on their local police and firefighters in the 60-minute, full-field match as Portland Timbers assistant coaches Sean McAuley (Fire) and Cameron Knowles (Police) took up spots on the sideline to help guide each team.
“I think people brought a lot of food for the Sunshine Division, toys for Toy N Joy Makers and money that gets split by both. That’s great,” said Portland Fire & Rescue training captain John Derr. “I think it’s a wonderful event and I’m glad that the Timbers put it on. I’m hoping that it just gets bigger next year.”
In fact, Sunshine Division received their largest volume of food donated at a single walk-up event this year thanks to the generous fans who witnessed Portland Fire & Rescue come up with a last-gasp, game-winning goal in the 60th minute for a 2-1 victory.
“It means a lot to us. It shows that we’re not just city employees. We don’t just go and do our jobs,” said Portland Police Bureau gang enforcement officer Jason Hubert, a 17-year veteran of the police force. “We care for our community, we live in our community and we also give back, so this is one way to give back to our community.”
The match took on a somber tone with a moment of silence to remember the events of 9/11 and an emotional rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” performed by Portland firefighter Travis Powell.
“For me and I know a lot of other guys too, when the national anthem was going on and we had a moment of silence, you kind of got choked up,” Hubert said. “Our brothers and sisters over in New York City back in 2001 who went in to get all those citizens out [of harm’s way], it’s heartfelt. I guarantee all of us on the line that played tonight would’ve done the same thing, that’s just the kind of people that we are – we’re out here for our community. It was a heartfelt moment.”
“We’re all definitely remembering our fallen firefighters that died on 9/11,” said Derr, who has served as a firefighter for 18 years. “Something we did this morning, all the stations went out and stood at attention at their flag poles and had both markers for the two towers going down, so this morning was a somber event, but being able to bring up the joy part of it here and run on this field in front of our friends and family is pretty nice.”
However, not lost on anyone was that both sides were playing to win, in addition to helping raise money and donations for charity. In a thoroughly entertaining match that featured a mix of open play, physicality and tremendous goalkeeping, both teams put it all on the line to claim the inaugural Rose City United title.
“I thought it was a pretty even contest,” Knowles said. “Our goalkeeper was outstanding in the first half. Made some big saves and kept us in it. The second half, we had the run of play and just got unlucky there at the end.”
McAuley, who coached the winning Fire side, countered: “I thought both teams were excellent. Both teams were really good. To score in the last minute was good for us, but I thought we did really well early on and their goalkeeper was excellent. But throughout the game, I never thought there was any doubt. Our team thoroughly deserved the win.”
Todd Sabrowski provided Fire with an early lead in the 13th minute, but Police netted the equalizer in the 46th minute when Adi Ramic curled a free kick around the defensive wall. Sabrowski helped created the game-winning goal in the 60th minute as he worked his way to the end line and found Jacob Brown for the winner.
For a lot of the players on the pitch at Providence Park – many of whom grew up playing soccer and have continued to play through various rec leagues, it was a special moment to be able to take part is a competitive match on the same field as the Timbers and Thorns.
“This is a game we’ve all played our whole lives and we love it,” Derr said. “To be able to mix that with a special event and raise money for charities and get to play where the Timbers and Thorns play is incredible.”
At the end of the night, the vocal crowd gave both sides a standing ovation, applauding their efforts on the field, but also paying recognition to the sacrifices they make to serve the city of Portland.
“I feel honored that I can be here and that they’ll have me be a part of their team and a part of this event,” Knowles said. “Hopefully we can keep it a consistent thing moving forward, every year from here on out.”