It was the birthday present that started an obsession.
March 31st, 2011 I received the birthday present that would quite literally change my life. My cousin had played on a U-14 team associated with the Timbers and had secured tickets for a match at Jeld-Wen on May 6th, 2011 against the Philadelphia Union. It was a simple question, “Hey, do you want to go to a Timbers game.” It got a simple answer, “Hell yeah.”
I was 14 years old then and although I loved playing soccer with a passion I had yet to actually devote time to watching the sport. My knowledge of the Portland Timbers was limited to the tales of the rowdy Timbers Army and I could name one team in the MLS besides them: the LA Galaxy. But even then I knew when life hands you Timbers tickets, you take them.
I got the full game day experience. A drive up I-5 four hours before game time from my hometown about 10 miles off of Salem was followed by a Trimet ride straight to the stadium once in the Rose City. Upon exiting the Max with my cousins and my uncle as a chaperon I was treated to my first look on the great Timbers Army. It was a sea of greens, whites, and the occasional red. I saw two-sticks being displayed above the heads of the crowd.
Just as I was starting to grow enamored with my new surroundings I was finally informed that our seats wouldn’t be in the Timbers Army section. We would be in the west end right next to the traveling Philadelphia supporters. I barely had time to care.
Before I could conjure any emotions against the away support, the teams started their walk to the field. That’s when I participated in my first chant, “P-T” clap-clap “F-C” clap-clap “P-T” clap-clap “F-C”. Never before had I seen such a large amount of people come together to form one, unanimous voice. It was simply awe inspiring. After a Timbers-fueled rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, it was time.
The match was a crazy blur. I followed the Timbers Army cues as best I could. I roared when they roared. I chanted what they chanted (save when the supporters around me thought it would be more fitting to sabotage the Union’s supporters chants). What I remember of the game being played on the field is little. Nagbe’s speed and energy impressed me. Chara’s physicalness surprised me. But above all, Captain Jack Jewsbury’s presence made him my favorite player to watch.
Caught up in the emotion of the match, I do remember my emotions getting the better of me. When a stray boot of Jorge Perlaza collided with the face of a Union player, I joined in with the chorus of derogatives being thrown down at the referee with a “F*** you!” of my own. Right afterwards, I remembered I was with my younger cousins, aunt, and uncle. I looked at them. Shock and awe was on the faces of my cousins. Anger, and maybe a hint of being impressed, in the eyes of my aunt and uncle. And I didn’t care. It was in that moment I knew I was hooked.
I cried out in disbelief when Futty Danso missed a golden chance to score on a header. My heart stopped on a goal line clearance late in the first half. When another header from the Timbers came close to scoring, I wondered if the goal would ever happen.
But of course it would come.
The Timbers, perhaps not wanting to let me leave disappointed on my first match, found their goal. Futty made up for his miss earlier and found his mark. I hugged a complete stranger in the row in front of me.
Once that goal was in the tension had been lifted and it felt like a Timbers win was now inevitable. It was.
I left Jeld-Wen field that night chanting with the Army and knowing that I was know Rose City ‘Til I Die.
– Erik Morgan, The Portland Boys