PORTLAND, Ore. – Kelly Trione was in Chicago when she found out about the doubleheader of the Portland Timbers taking on the Chicago Fire (3pm PT, FOX 12 Oregon) and Portland Thorns FC battling the Chicago Red Stars (5:15pm PT, NWSLsoccer.com) on Saturday all at Toyota Park.
She’s lived in Portland for about a year-and-a-half and was between jobs when the 2018 NWSL regular-season schedule was revealed. She’d taken a trip back to the Windy City, where she’d lived the two years prior, as a way to catch up with some of her favorite things: friends and snow.
“One of my best friends still lives in Chicago, and while I was there, the NWSL schedule dropped,” she remembers. “They were like ‘Look at this doubleheader,’ [so] while I was there, sitting on her couch, I booked a ticket to go back.
“It was kind of awkward, because I didn’t have a job, then, so when I got hired, I had to email my boss and be like, ‘So, listen. Um, pretty please, can I have that Friday off?’”
Trione will be on a red-eye early Friday, leaving Portland around 1 a.m. and arriving in Chicago around eight, Central time. A friend from Seattle will be joining her later that day, both flying in to support their favorite club.
They are two of many coming from the Pacific Northwest traveling to honor the special occasion. Chicago trips are always reasonably well attended, partially because of the comradery between Timbers and Fire supporters. That the Thorns will also be playing, Trione reminds me, is an opportunity for the regional supporters’ groups throughout the Midwest to get more return for their time invested. Instead of seeing one game after their hours’ drive into Chicago, they’ll get two, potentially seeing a team that wouldn’t have otherwise drive to watch.
“The Portland fans that travel, the Portland fans that make it there from the area get to see two great teams back-to-back,” Thorns head coach Mark Parsons explained. All four teams qualified for their respective playoffs last season. “It’s big time, big time for the fans, and we’re putting the two teams under pressure. We can’t just go and grab three points, we can go and grab six points in Chicago.”
Trione’s story is unique, though, partially because of her Chicago connections, and partially because of how she came into her Portland fandom. In 2013, as a senior at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, Trione was compelled to choose an NWSL team.
“I can’t be a neutral,” she explains, “and the nearest team was five hours away.” When some of her favorite players were allocated to the Thorns before the 2013 season – players like Tobin Heath, Christine Sinclair and Rachel Van Hollebeke – she became a supporter from afar.
“I picked the Thorns,” she says, “and I was like, I don’t have an MLS team, so I guess I get the Timbers, too.”
She had always had an affinity for the University of Portland and seen herself, eventually, moving to the West Coast, but the Thorns helped anchor her support. She is now one of the more reliable fixtures at Rose City Riveter gatherings before and after matches.
“I’d met a gazillion people online,” she explains, and when she fully arrived in Portland, she recalls, another prominent Thorns fan, Gwyn Defriez, “just brought me somewhere,” to a supporters’ gathering, “and said, ‘these are your friends now.’”
For Trione, the Chicago trip is chance for worlds to collide. She’d spent two years in Chicago after college, working through internships and jobs before relocating to Portland. She’d tried to attend Chicago Fire and Red Stars games just to support the sport, but it wasn’t until she arrived in her favorite teams’ city that her support was made full.
This weekend, she follows those teams back, to one of her former homes, retracing a path that truly began over five years ago. This time, though, when she arrives in Chicago, she’s be bringing new friends along.
Travelling as one club
Trione isn’t the only part of the PTFC family who’ll see worlds collide this week. On Thursday morning, the Timbers and Thorns had the rare opportunity to travel together to Chicago, inhabiting the same Alaska Airlines plane as members as teams from two locker rooms interspersed among rows.
Trainings follow for both teams on Friday, with Saturday’s festivities beginning at 3pm PT. That’s when the Timbers kickoff against the Fire, just over two hours before the Thorns do the same against the Red Stars at 5:15pm PT.
“I don’t think that we’ll be able to enjoy [the Timbers’ game] as staff or players,” Parsons explained, “because we’ll be getting ready for [our] game and warming up … but it’s a fantastic thing for the fans, and I’m sure the Timbers, if the opportunity allows them, could catch the game after and support the Thorns like they’ve always done when we’re at home.”
According to Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese, that’s exactly the plan.
“I don’t know for how long, but for sure, we’ll catch some period of the game,” Savarese said. Though the Timbers’ match will end shortly before the Thorns’ kicks off, the preliminary plan is for the team to catch some of the Red Stars-Thorns match from the stands, an opportunity the new Timbers boss hasn’t had before.
“It’s great to be able to see the Thorns live. I haven’t seen them yet …,” he said, having only been with the Timbers since December. “It’s a great thing to have the two teams together at this particular time. “
The Timbers and Thorns will play on the same day in Seattle, later this year, and last season, the teams were part of an MLS-NWSL doubleheader at Providence Park. But the group trip to Chicago marks a special occasion, one made more poignant by neither having a home game to this point in the season.
On Saturday, the Timbers and Thorns will have a chance to remind everyone that they are one club, and while Parsons’ hope of six points will be in the minds of supporters like Trione, unity in a shared trip will be reward of its own.