Merlo Field
Brian Costello

Thorns FC and T2 preseason games at Merlo Field part of long shared Soccer City USA history

Soccer City, USA will be on display Saturday and Sunday as the University of Portland and Merlo Field will be the site of two unique exhibition matches. Thorns FC take on the Pilots women's soccer team on Saturday, March 21 (TICKETS), and the Portland Timbers' new USL affiliate T2 make their first appearance on their home field for their 2015 season on Sunday, March 22 against the Pilots men's soccer team (TICKETS). Both matches are set to kickoff at 7 p.m. PT and are presented by Providence Health and Services. $2 from every ticket sold at both matches will go to Providence’s sports screening and health education programs for youth in the community

2015 will mark the third season for Portland Thorns FC in the National Women’s Soccer League, while T2 is just over a week away from opening its inaugural USL season.

The Pilots boost a rich and successful soccer tradition, helping put Portland on the soccer map with Olympians and World Cup stars, who have gone on to have brilliant careers on both the international and professional level. From MLS, to the NWSL, and the Timbers of old, UP is rooted in the soccer landscape.

The great Timbers legend Clive Charles left a legacy in Portland. After playing for the NASL Timbers from 1978-1981, Charles left a legacy at UP coaching on the bluff for more than 15 years. He served as both the men’s and women’s soccer coach for much of his time at UP until he passed away in 2003, leading the Pilot women in 2002 to the NCAA Championship in his final season. His No. 3 jersey is retired and hangs from the rafters of Providence Park as a testament to his contributions to both the Timbers and Portland soccer.

Current Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair (2001-02, 2004-05) helped the Pilots and Charles hoist the tournament trophy in 2002. The Thorns FC captain and one of the top goal scorers in women’s soccer history is still the Pilots' all-time leader in goals scored with 110. One of Thorns FC’s newest additions was also a Pilot, Kendall Johnson (2009-10, 2012). She will return to play on the field where she polished her skills on Saturday. A total of nine UP players are currently playing in the NWSL.

For the men, many UP grads have gone one to don a Timbers uniform such as USL stalwarts Brian Winters (1996-99), Scott Bendetti (1985-88) and Andrew Gregor (1994-97). Sunday marks a homecoming of sorts for Gregor he'll be entering Merlo Field as an assistant coach for T2. Another UP alum will get his chance to step back onto the famous pitch as midfielder Steven Evans will play for T2 this go around. Merlo Field will also serve as T2's regular season home pitch throughout the 2015 season. A total of 20 Pilots on the men’s side have spent time with a Timbers team in past or present.