Timbers Army looks to match impressive debut
So where does Timbers Army go from here?
After wowing an ESPN audience with its non-stop enthusiasm for singing, flag-waving and bouncing up and down Thursday night, the supporters group in the north end of JELD-WEN Field was lauded and discussed as much as the Timbers themselves after a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Fire.
The second home game comes Sunday against FC Dallas. Dave Hoyt, president of the 107 Independent Supports Trust, the non-profit booster group behind Timbers Army, said the goal now is to maintain that level of energy while continuing to grow.
“Anything we can do to make (Thursday) night happen again, that’s what we want to do,” Hoyt said. “We want to see if we can make that the regular experience.”
After the game, Timbers head coach John Spencer called the atmosphere the best he’d ever seen in American soccer.
“We have some glow on us (Friday) morning,” Hoyt said.
The Timbers Army is comprised of smaller groups located in the sections at the north end of the stadium, centered around section 107. It is not an exclusive club and its ranks are swelling.
Even the 107ists, which has membership fees, has topped 1,000 members – with 200-300 new members joining in the past month.
The level of organization was evident in the giant triptych banner displays that were hoisted up by elaborate rigging prior to the game.
The group’s design team began with a spit-balling session to discuss ideas. Supplies were ordered. Then the group rented a warehouse big enough to work on the project and store it.
“We did an open call to volunteers and asked, ‘Do you like to paint? We’ll have pizza and beer,’” Hoyt said. “We had 75 to 100 people come and help. Perhaps the most amazing part is that no one leaked it on Twitter or Facebook.”
Hoyt said good ideas tend to rise up and find the right people.
“We try to be very open,” Hoyt said. “Some of our greatest things happened because someone showed up at a pub and said, ‘I’m from here, we do this, we could do it like this, and no one else in the U.S. is doing it.'
"Sometimes the ideas are too familiar and sometimes we go, ‘Wow, we should have done that yesterday.’”
Timbers Army takes many of its cues from supporters’ traditions in Germany, central Europe, Turkey and Greece.
“We try to take the best parts of that, the less strident parts, and marry that with an English sense of community,” Hoyt said. “We use some alchemy.”
The end result was equal parts mosh pit and revival on Thursday night.
John Strong, the 25-year-old radio and TV voice of the Timbers, said the most satisfying part of opening night was seeing two years of buildup and promises of a great atmosphere live up to, and exceed, expectations.
“How many people that were not soccer fans before Thursday said, ‘That was cool. I want to go to a game?’” Strong asked. “That was pretty significant.”
Strong was a proud member of Timbers Army before moving into the broadcast booth in 2006.
“As much as Portland now says how do we keep up with ourselves," Strong said, "other cities have to figure out how to match Portland."