Timbers Bike
Photo by Factory Five

From the Stands: Mark Evans and his journey from Section 108 to the streets of Shanghai

As you are reading this, Portland Timbers fan Mark Evans may be swerving through the streets of Shanghai on his custom-made Timbers bicycle.

The Timbers bike, though, may not even be the most surprising thing about Evans, who has been fanatically following the Timbers since he was a student at Reed College in 2006.

Not long after leaving Reed, Evans moved to Shanghai for work, but not before he had forged a deep connection to the Portland club.

"I hadn't really made many friends in the Timbers Army," Evans said via e-mail of his first year of attending Timbers matches at then-PGE Park. "I just sat or stood in 207 and tried to soak it all in."

On a whim, however, Evans went to a Timbers meet-up at the Horse Brass Pub in Southeast Portland. It was there that he happened to meet several members of the Timbers Army. Their kindness left a deep impression on Evans and it wasn't long before he found himself standing and singing along in Section 108.

After moving to China a few years later, Evans now works as a digital strategist for a marketing agency in Shanghai.

That doesn't mean that Evans stopped following his favorite club. These days, Evans says, he follows the club on Twitter and watches any game he can.

"In the early years when I had a more flexible schedule, I didn't miss a game. Now there are some that I just can't make. Those Sunday afternoon games are great for Portland, but 2 AM Monday morning is tough."

Still, Evans managed to return home for one of the biggest games in club history: the Timbers' 4-2 victory over the Chicago Fire in the club's inaugural MLS home match.

But of all the great Timbers moments that Evans has experienced, many of them in person, his favorite came in a 2007 USL match between the Timbers and Charleston Battery.

In the second half of that match, Timbers defender Justin Thompson struck a wicked side-footed volley that curled past the Battery's goalkeeper and sent the crowd of nearly 16,000 fans at then-PGE Park into hysterics.

“I think in terms of pure sportsgasms, Justin Thompson's wonder goal in the yellow kits has got to be up there," said Evans.

As for that Timbers bicycle, Evans says that it was the brainchild of some Shanghai-based friends who had started their own custom bike company.

"They were just getting started building frames, so someone had the idea to paint one up in NASL Timbers colors," he said.

And if the idea of riding a bike in the crowded streets of Shanghai sounds crazy, Evans agrees, describing it as "its own breed of crazy."

Evans is still astonished that many of the things that characterized his life in Portland, from bikes to beer to soccer, seem to have traveled with him to China.

And while he has started following the two top soccer clubs in Shanghai, Evans says that neither club can match the kind of support he left behind in the Rose City.

"They've got their supporters too," he said of Shanghai Greenland Shenhua F.C. and Shanghai Shenxin F.C.. "But no one will ever be ousting the Timbers Army."

Evans added that if the Timbers ever travel to Asia, he will be there to support the club.

"Maybe someday we'll get the Timbers to do an Asian tour," he said. "I'm here to help!"

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