Editor’s Note: 2015 is a dual anniversary for the Portland Timbers as the club is celebrating its 40th year as an organization as well as its 5th year in Major League Soccer.
Back in 2010, the team launched a series of billboards on the sides of buildings, at the ends of bridges, and across the city featuring some of the Rose City’s soccer supporters and citizens. That was followed by a photo shoot open to all fans where individuals of all ages posed with axes, chainsaws, scarves and more.
Now heading into the club’s 5th MLS season, the Timbers are bringing the campaign back.
On February 6 and 7 from 10 am to 6 pm as well as February 14 from 10 am to 6 pm and February 15 from 11 am to 5 pm, fans can come to Providence Park to get a new portrait taken.
What’s changed for you in the last five years? We reached out to a number of Timbers supporters from both the billboards and fan shoot in 2010 to hear more about how their Timbers fandom has deepened. - BC
Growing up in a rural Eastern Oregon town near the Idaho border, Roberto Aguilar often felt like he didn't have a lot of soccer opportunities. There was no organized soccer league and little in the way of resources to help someone like Aguilar understand the world around him.
But in 1986, something clicked for Aguilar when his uncle introduced him to the World Cup. That year, Mexico was hosting, and young Roberto was mesmerized by the maps and the flags and the pure spectacle of soccer played at its highest level.
That experience, Aguilar says, imbued him with a love of the game that has stayed with him all these years later.
"I feel like for me soccer made me realize that the world is this great big place," Aguilar told Timbers.com. "Different languages. The map. The globe. It started with the World Cup in '86 in Mexico. All those cultures, that's how it impacts me. I think I love culture so much more and want to learn different languages because of soccer."
- FAX AXE PHOTO SHOOT RETURNS: Feb. 6-7 and Feb. 14-15 at Providence Park
So when Aguilar was a young, single professional living in downtown Portland, he made a point of going to as many USL Timbers games as he possibly could. For him, the opportunity to watch pro soccer was one that he wasn't about to let slip by.
It's also the reason why Aguilar was so anxious to have his photograph taken during the Timbers/Axe fan photo shoot event before the team's inaugural MLS season.
Aguilar explained: "I was very excited for MLS Timbers to happen. It was the last day [of the shoot] and my wife finally agreed. Let's go down there!"
The father of two young children, Aguilar was concerned about the hectic pace of downtown Portland, but was especially worried that he would be too late and miss his opportunity. Fortunately for him, not only did he make it in time, but the shoot was as smooth as possible.
The resulting photo is certainly memorable. In it, Aguilar stands holding his three month-old son, who appears to be comfortably sleeping in his father's arms, wrapped gently in a Timbers scarf. For some Timbers fans, the photo symbolized the "Rose City Til I Die" ethos.
Aguilar, however, says the final photo was simply good fortune.
"It was more nerve wracking for me; I was afraid I was going to drop him," he said. "So I tried to hold him with one hand and the ax with the other, but I couldn't do that. I can't remember if he was fully asleep or not, but he was definitely peaceful. He was not wriggling or anything."
When the final photo started getting votes in the official Facebook poll, Aguilar, a guidance counselor and soccer coach at Milwaukie High School, realized that it was time to mobilize the school community behind him.
Despite the support, however, the photo finished just short of the requirements necessary for Aguilar and his son to make it onto a Portland billboard. Still, he says, the experience was a fun one for him, his family, and the entire Milwaukie High School community.
Since the club has joined MLS, Aguilar has continued to show his support, watching games and sharing his passion for both the Timbers and the sport of soccer with anyone who will listen, which often means his high school charges.
He believes that the Timbers, particularly through their academy, offer young soccer players in the Portland area a path to pursue a career in professional soccer.
"Now we look at them here and I'm trying to tell the boys as a coach there's a path," Aguilar said. "You can make it happen. You'll have to work harder than you ever thought, but there's a path."
Through his work as a guidance counselor and soccer coach, Aguilar continues to inspire his students to dream ever bigger dreams. Soccer, he says, inspires the kind of passion and joy and curiosity it takes to succeed.
He should know.