BEAVERTON, Ore. – Saturday’s Portland Timbers match against the New England Revolution (4:30pm PT, TICKETS, FOX) marks the earliest start ever for the Major League Soccer regular season. Coming only 77 days since the Timbers appeared in the 2021 MLS Cup at Providence Park, Portland players are thrilled to be back out on the pitch.
Defender Bill Tuiloma was all smiles at training earlier this week as he thought about what he’s looking forward to. “It’s going to be amazing,” he said. “Especially being at home, in front of the fans. I know the fans are pumped for this.
“I have friends and family that are going to be at the stadium. I know the fans always going to bring the hype, the atmosphere and it’s going to be incredible.”
Home openers are often exciting, in part, as they mark the opening of a new chapter and new possibilities for the season ahead. Coming off a 2021 that saw Portland capture another Western Conference Championship, anticipation and expectations remain high for the group.
“When you start a season again, in your home, you renew the future,” midfielder Sebastián Blanco reflected. “You renew the goals.”
Providence Park has witnessed numerous memorable openers. Many may remember the rain-soaked win over the Chicago Fire to start the team’s MLS era in 2011. 2018 saw a tight, 3-2 victory for Portland over Minnesota United FC. For midfielder Diego Chara, who enters his 12th season with the Timbers this year, the 2013 battle against New York Red Bulls was a game he marks among his favorites. Down 3-1 within the first 28 minutes, Portland fought back in the second half to draw 3-3.
“That’s one of my best memories,” said Chara. “Not because of how we started the season, but more because of what we did on the field. It was amazing.”
When it comes to home openers for Blanco, he is partial to his first-ever game at Providence Park: A 5-1 rout of Minnesota in 2017. Blanco assisted Diego Valeri on one of his two goals while Fanendo Adi also scored a brace – both of his goals being scored deep in second-half stoppage time.
“It was my first time with the stadium all full,” remembers Blanco. “I think it was a very exciting moment.”
In Tuiloma’s case, his favorite memory is more about a tradition than any specific game. The New Zealand international joined the Timbers midway through the 2017 season. For him, his best moment is right before kickoff.
“[It’s] when the crowd yells out, ‘Timbers!’ at the end of the national anthem,” he said.
But for this Saturday, Tuiloma also added that he’s looking forward to a new memory:
“The kit! Wearing the new kit will be amazing.”