Editor's Note: Kelly McLain--writer and editor for the online soccer news source Timbers Insider-- headed north this past weekend to witness the Portland Timbers help open the brand new glittering BC Place home of the Vancouver Whitecaps. McLain takes a look at what this match-up and Timbers victory was all about for the supporters of both sides of the Cascadia rivalry.
Along with seeing more of McLain's work at Timbers Insider, you can also find him contributing to Prost Amerika and he is a member of the North American Soccer Network.
Typically, as the jokes go, Portlanders bring rain with them wherever they travel. But after two days of overcast skies and 60 degree weather, the clouds above beautiful Vancouver, B.C. parted ways Sunday morning and the city was bathed in glowing rays of sunshine in the hours before the Timbers and Whitecaps kicked off.
Perhaps, for once, Portlanders were responsible for sunshine, and not the liquid kind.
At least that’s what Timbers Army members Bill Wolfe and Sven Haugan would like to believe.
“We came up at 3:30 this morning,” Wolfe said of the duo’s one-day marathon journey to-and-from Vancouver. And since they didn’t see any other Timbers fans on their way up the I-5 corridor, they can take the credit for the gorgeous morning weather.
The team smuggled a ray of sunshine across the border as well, in the form of Kenny Cooper’s 25th minute volley that gave Portland a much-needed 1-0 win in the refurbished BC Place. But it was the golden rays streaming downward from above that set the stage for an unforgettable weekend courtesy of our neighbors to the north.
Beginning Saturday afternoon the green and Rose City red of Timbers kits and scarves began to filter into British Columbia’s largest city. By noon Sunday, Granville and Robson streets may as well have been in the center of Portland. When the traveling supporters gathered at The Winking Judge Pub on Burrard Street and marched and sang their way down to the stadium they got a lot of friendly, yet curious, looks from the locals.
“Everybody’s been so nice,” said Sandy Gilmore who made the trip with her daughter Rachel Highton, son-in-law Adam Highton and their son Owen. “We’ve been wearing our jerseys around town and everyone has been smiling and waving---just really nice.”
By the time the new retractable roof opened twenty minutes prior to kickoff, the clouds had managed to wrestle back control of the skies, but the spirits of the Timbers fans did not turn grey. The Army admirably sang all the way from an hour before the match started to the final whistle, much to the amazement of the surrounding security personnel and Whitecaps fans.
A Portland win was anything but a foregone conclusion, especially with the locals trying to create an opening day atmosphere as they christened a rebuilt stadium.
“Most expansion teams don’t lose their home opener,” said Portland head coach John Spencer during the post-game press conference. “After getting beat last weekend by Seattle, they didn’t come here today to lose.”
Unfortunately for the gracious host city, and elderly Dianna Sawyer, a season ticket holder from the Whitecaps first season back in 1974 and the day’s first entrant into the stadium, that’s exactly what happened.
“Do you remember that first game?” Sawyer was asked of the inaugural season more than 35 years ago.
“No,” she replied bluntly and with a chuckle.
Sawyer, along with the rest of Vancouver, may choose to forget the team’s first match back in BC Place, and quite possibly this entire first MLS season.
But Portland certainly won’t, regardless of which rays of sun, golden or liquid, are shining down.