PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers received a hero’s welcome Monday upon their return to the Rose City, toting with them their spoils from Sunday’s aggregate triumph over FC Dallas in the Western Conference Championship.
A crowd of approximately 100 people displayed banners and serenaded Timbers players, coaches and staff as they entered their private charter terminal at Portland International Airport. It was an overwhelming display of gratitude – and a party for supporters who couldn’t be a part of Sunday’s celebration at Toyota Stadium after a 2-2 draw gave the Timbers a 5-3 aggregate victory in the two-leg series, and the club’s first major trophy since their 1975 NASL Western Division championship.
“This is just great,” said midfielder Diego Valeri, noting the reception was a complete surprise. “We know that this is for them. They will keep this in their hearts for life.”
Team owner Merritt Paulson also got involved, leading the crowd in song, one being a chant of “We want the Cup, we want the Cup,” in reference to when the Timbers play in their first MLS Cup title game Sunday when they take on Columbus Crew SC (1 pm PT, ESPN, UniMás, TSN in Canada). Players posed with their adoring fans and the Western Conference trophy, shaking hands, hugging and taking selfies.
“It’s special. It’s a little emotional, to be quite honest,” said veteran midfielder Jack Jewsbury, who has been with the Timbers since they joined MLS in 2011. “It’s such a big deal for us, and to be able to give back to the fan base – they’ve suffered, they stuck with us through some tough times, not only this year but obviously through the last few years. So to be able to give a trophy to this city, to this organization and this fan base, I think means a lot to us players.”
Head coach Caleb Porter graciously interacted with the fans, delivering a quick pep talk before heading off to begin MLS Cup preparations. He said the welcome was “humbling,” but hopes an even bigger one awaits in a week’s time.
“I don’t want to diminish the significance of us winning the Western Conference trophy, although I hope next week when we come back and we get off the plane at a similar time that we’re celebrating an even bigger trophy,” he said. “But it really is an honor for them to pay tribute to our entire club. I’m just so happy to bring joy to them.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.