Sgt. Rusty Earl, Timbers vs. Crew, 5.17.14

Portland Timbers honor Oregon National Guardsman Sergeant Rusty Earl during match with Columbus Crew

During Saturday night’s Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew match, Sergeant Rusty Earl (above, middle) of the Oregon National Guard got to see his first MLS game. Earl was nominated by his unit to attend the match, as his peers recognized him and his hard work during his time in the military. The opportunity was just in time for Earl, who ships out of Oregon for his first deployment in Afghanistan on May 20.

A man early in his military career, Earl has been an Intelligence Analyst since 2007. Sergeant Earl has spent time in Thailand and around the state of Oregon working for the National Guard. But the end of the summer will see Earl's first deployment overseas, and he couldn't pass up a chance to see one of the best live sporting events in the U.S. Earl’s first game was a wild one, a 3-3 draw that included a late-game goal by Gastón Fernández to equalize in the 85th minute.

“It’s intense,” said Earl of the match, awed by the atmosphere at his first professional soccer game. “I didn’t know if it would be. It’s pretty exciting.”

Seated in section 120 of Providence Park, Earl, his wife Katie and brother-in-law Alex watched as the Timbers played valiantly, down to 10 men for an hour during Saturday’s match. 

The Timbers organization recognized Earl and his family’s service to our country by honoring him in front of the 20,000 strong at the park during halftime. Portland’s faithful were more than appreciative, as a standing ovation roared from the crowd when his name was announced. 

Sgt. Earl and his unit leave for Idaho on May 20. They will spend a few months at Fort Hood in Texas before deploying overseas in August for Kabul, where he will be stationed until May 2015.