Wednesday night, inside Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá, Mickey Rivera will find himself sitting alongside nearly 50 other Timbers Army members as the Portland Timbers take on Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa in a critical CONCACAF Champions League group match (7pm PT, Univision Deportes / CONCACAF Facebook).
Rivera, who first fell in love with the Timbers in 2011 and who has since traveled around the United States for a number of Timbers away matches, says that this trip is his most anticipated yet.
“Costa Rica has been one of those countries that I figured I would go to at one point or another,” says Rivera. “So following the Timbers there seems like a pretty good excuse [to travel] and it was easy to convince my fiancée to go when I told her it would be to Costa Rica.”
Rivera's plan is simple.
After boarding a red-eye flight from Seattle on Tuesday night, he will arrive in San José early Wednesday morning. After a few hours of strolling around the capital and taking in the sights, he and his friends will head over to the stadium, which is located just outside of town. There Rivera, his friends, and the rest of the traveling Timbers fans will sing their hearts out in one of the most raucous soccer atmospheres in the CONCACAF region.
“One of the most fun parts of going on away trips is not necessarily just your team and your fans, but when the other fans are just as into it as you are,” explains Rivera. “We know when we go to Saprissa [that] their fans are very loud, they're very energetic, and I've seen videos of them going crazy with flares and smoke. So I knew it would be a great atmosphere to experience.”
But Rivera may have never made the trip at all had it not been for a stroke of good fortune.
Back in late May, Rivera and a few of his friends traveled to Chicago for the Timbers match there against the Fire. With only a few days before the CONCACAF Champions League group draw, Rivera and his friends looked over the list of prospective opponents and decided that if the Timbers drew Saprissa they would travel to Costa Rica for the match.
“Just by chance [the Timbers] drew Saprissa and immediately all of us hopped on some cheap flights before anyone else did,” Rivera says.
This coming trip to Costa Rica, though, is far from the first time that Rivera has traveled outside of the Pacific Northwest for a Timbers match. Aside from Chicago, Rivera has also taken road trips to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and most memorably, to Columbus for the 2015 MLS Cup.
“Once the final whistle blew it was absolute insanity,” Rivera recalls of MLS Cup, an event he described as surreal. “We must have chanted for what felt like hours after the match with the players coming over [to us]. It felt like we weren't cheering for the team at that moment; it felt like the team and us were all cheering and celebrating this moment together. It was just so much fun.”
Rivera and his friends hope to translate a little bit of that celebratory atmosphere and supportive spirit to their Costa Rican trip. A result of any kind, whether a win or a draw, would boost the Timbers' chances of advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2016-17 Champions League.
And for the already well-traveled Rivera, a trip to lush, beautiful Costa Rica may provide something else that few of the other away trips have before: a real vacation.
“[After the match] we'll spend two or three days living the hard life: kayaking out of the backyard, eating a lot of food, and enjoying their beer,” Rivera says with a laugh.