John Bain, NASL

A Timbers Ring of Honor inductee in 2011, midfielder John Bain is the alltime Timbers career leader in goals (45), assists (55) and points across all eras. A native of Falkirk, Scotland, Bain made 148 league appearances for the Timbers in the North American Soccer League (NASL) from 1978-1982 and has been a fixture in the Portland soccer community since 1989 as a well-regarded coach at the high school and youth club ranks.
You made the move to Portland from Bristol City in 1978. How did it come about that you made the long trek from England to the Rose City?

John Bain:  
“Basically what happened was, I was a young player at the time – I was 20 years old – and Don Megson became coach of the Timbers in 1978. Before he became the coach in Portland, he was the coach at Bristol Rovers, which was Bristol City’s main rival and I think he always liked me as a player. I originally came over on a loan spell for the 1978 season and the plan was to go back to England and play after that. I went back to England and played another season and then the Timbers bought my rights from Bristol City. I came back over in March before the start of the next season. As a young player it was a good opportunity to get playing time. I was in the first team squad at Bristol, but I wasn’t getting the playing time, so it was a good opportunity to get some first-team minutes in 1978.”

Portland Timbers Flashback: John Bain -

That ’78 season was pretty successful by most accounts as the Timbers reached the NASL Conference Championship. What do you recall from your first year with the club?

“It was a great season. What was good about it was we had a really good group of players. The majority of the players were from Britain and we had a good core of American players, too. There was a lot of positivity about soccer in America at that time. It was a different kind of experience for me. I came over and really enjoyed playing again. At that time, there were some fantastic players over here in the league, some were in the latter stages in their careers, but were still good players. It was a step up for me to come over and play. There were some big stadiums and big crowds. We had some big crowds in Portland too especially when the Cosmos or some of the other big name teams came to town, but the atmosphere was nothing like it is now. There were a couple games, even with 10,000 or 12,000 fans in the stadium and still the atmosphere was pretty good. I think the fans today know more about the game and they’re more knowledgeable, but for soccer at that time in America it was great and Portland’s not called ‘Soccer City, USA’ for no reason.”

You had a lot of success as a player for Portland – leading the club’s career record books in points, goals and assists. What comes to mind when thinking about your Timbers career?

“I came over to Portland at a good time and I was really fortunate that I got into the team and was starting consistently. The coaches who coached me, Don Megson and Vic Crowe, really gave me a lot of responsibility as a young player. I just really loved playing for the Timbers and when you’re at a club for five years, it becomes a special place. I left here when I was 25 (when the team folded), so it was probably the toughest time in my career. I had Vancouver, Seattle and San Diego interested in me, but it was tough. I had a lot of friends here, I loved the city. There started to become a different atmosphere around the league, it was a different kind of feel when the Timbers folded because they were one of the clubs you wouldn’t think would have folded. After the team folded, I played at Seattle, then indoor in San Jose, also went to Minnesota, I was all over the place. The outdoor game was gone and I was playing in the indoor game, which was enjoyable, but the only real option left for soccer in America. I had a family by then and I didn’t have thoughts of going back to Britain, so I tried to make the best of playing soccer. When I was in St. Louis (playing indoor) and the team folded, that’s when I decided to come back to Portland and do something different. At that time I got the chance to be a player/coach with the Timbers 1989 WSL team with Kasey Keller in goal that year and a lot of other good kids.”

As someone who has been in and around the Timbers organization nearly since its inception, what do you see now when you look at the club? 

“We came over and it was nearly all players from abroad and there was no real infrastructure. When you look at them now, they have the first team, T2, Timbers U-23s, U-18s, U-16s, it’s a soccer club, and it’s an actual club and not just a team like when I was playing. And with Thorns too, there is an incredible opportunity for young girls and boys to play soccer. To me it’s really rewarding that soccer has blossomed in the last 30 years and especially in the last five years since the Timbers have moved to MLS, it’s just amazing to see it. It’s also great that they’ve got the Timbers name back. The NASL clubs that retained their old names now in MLS, it’s nice to see that history that comes along with that name, it’s great.”