PORTLAND, Ore. - This Sunday, the Portland Timbers will take on New York City FC (4pm PT, FOX Sports 1), a club that shares some of the same owners as legendary English Premier League club Manchester City. But before Man City was connected to MLS and even before the Timbers had debuted in the same league, the two clubs met in front of 5,018 fans on a sunny summer night on Saturday, July 17, 2010 at the University of Portland's Merlo Field.
Featuring stars of the past and the future, Man City came to Portland as part of its preseason American tour that started with training sessions in Beaverton. For the first match of the preseason, the likes of Joe Hart, Patrick Viera, and Craig Bellamy took on the USL Timbers in a friendly that was only open to Timbers season ticket holders.
For the Timbers, it was an opportunity to take on some of the best players in the world. Former Timbers defender and current club broadcaster Ross Smith, who started the match, recalls the pregame anticipation was different from previous friendlies.
"I remember that feeling where you couldn't wait for a game to come, it couldn't come quick enough. On the morning of it, I remember thinking 'I'm going to step on the pitch with all those big names,'" Smith said. "It was almost surreal. There was just something about it. You just can't believe you get to do this."
Playing at a smaller venue, provided a unique intimacy for the match. Fans were able to see not only the Man City players up close, but also the hometown Timbers.
"At Merlo, there was an appreciation from the crowd off of every little thing you did. It was as though they appreciated what a tough task it was to play against them," Smith said. "Something you'd do every game at the USL level, they were applauding because they realized just how much effort you were putting in."
The game itself started as an even contest with Portland almost taking the lead early when Derek Gaudet redirected an Alex Nimo cross on target, only to be denied by a diving Hart. For almost the entirety of the first half the score remained level. However, a few minutes before the halftime whistle, Man City's Stephen Ireland and Adam Johnson struck with two goals in quick succession to take a 2-0 lead into the break.
"For 44 minutes, it was nil-nil. And they scored two goals," said Smith. "I was gutted because you never want to concede goals when you're a defender. Another two minutes, we would have come away thinking that was a perfect game."
Portland and Man City both made numerous halftime subs and the game became more open. Among those players who came in for the second half for Man City included Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott, among others. Brazillian player Jo gave Man City a third goal of the match and match finished with a score of 3-0.
Man City went onto win the FA Cup that season. Merlo Field, still a fervent home for University of Portland Pilots men's and women's soccer, is now also used as the home of Portland's current USL side: T2.
Smith, meanwhile, has taken a memory from the match that still sticks with him today.
"There's a photo from the match, I'm against Adebayor when I won a tackle and that has stayed with me," Smith said. "That is my favorite photo that I have because my times here in Portland are so dear to me, and [against] Adebayor, a player of that stature, to win a challenge off him."