COLUMBUS, Ohio - They came from places both far and wide. From every American time zone, they came. From across oceans and continents, they came. From long plane rides or carpools from airports multiple states away, they came. On Saturday night, the Timbers Army gathered in Columbus for a pilgrimage forty years in the making to see the Portland Timbers battle Columbus Crew SC Sunday for the 2015 MLS Cup (1pm PT, ESPN).
Columbus's Arena District was inundated Saturday with Portland fans who overtook numerous bars and filled the air with chants. In the midst of the festivities, the victory log--having made the 2,400-mile cross country journey on a Daimler Truck--was parked and fans took their turns taking photos and scarfing the timber.
One of the many fans who made the trip was Fredrik Wolff of Stockholm, Sweden. Wolff flew from Europe to attend the Timbers Western Conference Finals match at FC Dallas and when Portland advanced, Wolff decided he needed to stay in the U.S.
"I was like, why not?" said Wolff, as he sipped a beer at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Saturday night.
Wolff became a Timbers fan due to his support for his hometown club, AIK. When it was announced the Timbers would face AIK in the 2012 MLS preseason, Wolff, along with his friend Linus Wilhelmsson, decided to make the trek to the Rose City.
"We made a lot of friends," Wolff said. "The next season, I came back and met up with my friends I had made and that made me a Timbers fan."
Since becoming a fan, Wolff has attended 12 Timbers match, despite living a continent away. Following the Dallas match on Sunday, Wolff has been to two NHL games, one in Saint Louis and one in Columbus.
At the opposite end of the bar table from Wolff, sat Andrew Self and Hanne Eastwood. The married couple arrived in Columbus on Thursday, thanks to winning seats on the Timbers Alaska Airlines plane in a contest sponsored by the airline and the Timbers.
"We've been to away matches before, we've been to Vancouver, New England, and Salt Lake. They've all been amazing," Self said. "This one is more special. It's not just because it's not easy to get here, but it's a Cup final. It means a lot, it means everything."
For Eastwood, the plane ride to Columbus gave her some insight to what her favorite team was like away from the field.
"It was amazing to see the relationship between all of the players and all of the staff even beyond the coaching staff," Eastwood said. "It's such a family club in that way."
Eastwood, who was born in England, is a lifelong soccer fan who started her life as a Leeds United fan. Self, however, had never watched a club soccer match before attending a pub in Portland and watching the Timbers MLS home opener against the Chicago Fire in 2011.
"When that first goal went in and the whole room cheered, I got it," said Self, who has been a fan ever since.