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Pyro pirates set to light up Timbers' home opener

PORTLAND, Ore. – Here’s how to make an impression on Major League Soccer.

Fill a semi-truck with roughly 800 pieces of pyrotechnic shells and electrical wiring and drive it up the Pacific Coast. Get your guys on the job site at 7:30 am and put them to work, making sure that a burst of light and flame cuts through the soggy Portland spring night at just … the … right … moment.

That’s the job of the aptly-named and aptly-equipped Pyro Spectaculars, a California-based company who set up shop at Portland’s JELD-WEN Field early Wednesday morning with all intentions of blowing something up before, during and (hopefully) after Portland’s MLS home opener on Thursday night against the Chicago Fire (11 pm ET, ESPN2, ESPN3.com).

Of course, that last part is up to the Timbers. There’s a whole sequence of pyros set to blow if they can top the Fire to earn their first MLS regular-season win and appease a rabid fan base whose fuse is set to blow.

But if it were up to Aaron Beargeon – who was calling the shots Wednesday while his crew of 10 spent the morning delicately administering the pyro shells their last rites by linking them to an elaborate wiring system – he would blow the whole thing, win or lose.

“Since it’s the opener, we just might do those ones anyway,” Beargeon said, surveying a scene of organized chaos made of cardboard shells, electrical wiring and half-filled coffee cups. “Once we load ‘em in, I prefer just to shoot it all.”

These guys aren’t new to the business. They’ve been a regular at the Super Bowl for more than a decade, and they’re the ones behind all the pyro power at games for the LA Galaxy, Chivas USA and the San Jose Earthquakes. They also worked the 1994 World Cup, and have been the official supplier of all the pyro needs for World Wrestling Entertainment since 2008.

But there’s no denying there’s a special feeling for this game in Portland. The crew’s day is spent wiring and placing between 700 and 800 shells (they’re called comets and mines, and there’s a difference), making sure the entire setup is linked to one computer from which Beargeon will run a complex program that tells the shells when to kiss the sky.

The men will make their way to the roof of the stadium itself and start rigging the shells there, beginning on top of the overhang that protects the new east grandstands and all along the rim of the stadium, high above the Timbers Army and the sellout crowd.

How high? The comets, Beargeon explains, will blast yellow and green spires roughly 250 feet in the air, while the more terrestrial mines are something like shrubs in your flower garden. Except these shrubs shoot a shower of stars made of flame.

“The biggest thrill is when the crowd cheers,” Beargeon said. “Then we know we did a god job. There’s nothing like that feeling.”

Pryo Spectaculars is no stranger to Portland, either. They’ve worked Timbers games during their D-2 days as well as with the Portland Beavers, the minor league baseball team who made way for the MLS Timbers this season.

“We’ve worked with the team before,” Beargeon said, looking over the JELD-WEN pitch as the Timbers wrapped their workout session for the day. “But this is a special one for us.”