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Secret operation the latest tifo project for Timbers Army

The Timbers Army displays some tifo on April 14 against Chicago.

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Portland Timbers

PORTLAND, Ore. — When conceptualizing and constructing tifo, Portland Timbers Army 107ist president Dave Hoyt likens it to a top-secret military project.

In fact, he said it’s much like building a jet at Boeing — pardon the Seattle analogy.

“We tend to operate in the same way,” Hoyt told MLSsoccer.com as he literally waited for paint to dry Saturday at an undisclosed warehouse just outside city limits.

He and Army members were finalizing one of the panels of the highly anticipated tifo for Sunday’s nationally televised match against the rival Seattle Sounders on Sunday (4 pm ET, ESPN), the first time the two teams have met at JELD-WEN Field since the Timbers joined MLS.

“Everybody works on one piece, and they may not know what it is until it all comes together,” Hoyt said, referring to the top-secret nature of constructing the gigantic pieces of art that are unfurled before a match.

For the uninitiated, tifo is an Italian word to describe soccer club supporters’ extravagant ways in which they express support for their team. And the Timbers Army is noteworthy for just that, especially since unfurling one in 2009 during a US Open Cup match against Seattle that MLSsoccer.com considered one the top-five tifos in American soccer.

The depiction was fitting of the rivalry at hand: mascot Timber Jim cutting down the Space Needle with a chainsaw.

“A lot of it is about the rivalry,” Hoyt said. “A lot of it is about the pomp and circumstance and proving to casual bystanders that this isn’t just a casual rivalry. And we’re going to be on the center stage. The whole country will be watching us, and this is a chance to showcase not just the team, but the community and what it means to be Timbers fans.”

Hoyt said about “several hundred hours” of combined man-hours have gone into Sunday’s tifo. Clearly, Timbers players aren’t the only ones who have had Sunday’s date with Seattle circled on their calendars, especially since Sounders supporters unveiled an especially large tifo in the two teams’ meeting in May.

Hoyt said Seattle’s Emerald City Supporters may have them on size, but the Army has the market cornered on creativity.

“Fair is fair,” he said. “[Seattle’s tifo on May 14] was an absolutely massive display. The size of it would be very hard to match. But we try to go for a little more creativity, something that represents our community and that is unique.

“They sort of go back to that same well very often,” he added. “You just sort of see the same thing. … We want to create something so you remember this tifo from this game.”

The Army’s efforts absolutely resonate with the team. Timbers head coach John Spencer said during training this week that he is looking forward to seeing “beautiful big banners” unfurled before Sunday’s match.

“Our fans don’t play a bad game,” Spencer said. “They come out and they cheer in the thousands, and they get us going. And I don’t think it’s going to be any different on Sunday.”

Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury has encouraged his family to soak in the atmosphere before the game and says this could be one to be remembered for a long time.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of the crowd,” he said. “They’re up for it every game.”

The only question seems to be; will Sunday’s tifo top the Timber Jim creation?

“It shows we have the ambition to keep moving forward and innovating,” Hoyt said. “The neat thing about the Timbers Army is you can literally spend hours in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere waiting for paint to dry, and it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.”