For Timbers fans, draw bittersweet -- but not the bitter end
PORTLAND, Ore. – Bruce "Obi" Eaton has been to a lot of these games. A Portland Timbers supporter since the beginning in the 1970s, he has seen many, many matches between his beloved club and the rival Seattle Sounders.
This one, however, was the first one he's been to that was on national television. The Timbers Army showed up en masse, rocking JELD-WEN Field throughout the game – but so did the opponent's supporters.
"I have to give credit to the Seattle fans," Eaton says at The Bitter End – TA ground zero – after the 1-1 draw. "They brought it today."
The sentiment from others in the pub is similar. Timbers supporters will admit the 750 or so Sounders supporters did their best to compete. They couldn't match the home side, due to sheer numbers, but they tried admirably. Frankly, it was a rather respectful atmosphere.
"Three years ago, there would have been fistfights [if that many Seattle supporters showed up]," Eaton says.
If anything, TA members say the Army was a little flat due to the early start time of the match. Understandably so. Many members were out late. In one example, as late Friday night tipped into early Saturday morning at a fine establishment in Portland's Central Eastside Industrial district, the discussion revolved around the difficulties of waking up the next morning and getting to The Bitter End at 8 am.
In terms of problems, this is a good one to have, but it is still a problem. Cheering for four straight hours in the hot sun is tiring. At the end of the match, the players weren't the only ones who were spent.
The nicest supporter-player moment of the match came when Timbers starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts went off injured early in the second stanza. Jamaican flags flew in the stands. The Army gave backup Joe Bendik a huge cheer as he ran on to the field towards them.
"They gave me a pretty good home welcome," the 23-year-old said after the match. (Bednik gave up a goal almost immediately. That was a less nice moment. In his defense, he and Ricketts together might not have saved Fredy Montero's perfectly placed effort.)
Back at The Bitter end, talk moves to the result. The collected masses are upset they didn't win the Cascadia Cup outright, but they are proud of their team for fighting back. They could have given up after falling behind 1-0 due to, of all players, Fredy Montero and his wonderstrike, and maybe two months ago they would have.
But on Saturday, they didn't. They clawed and fought and eventually found an equalizer. TA wanted the win and believe they deserved the victory – only a mutinous upright, which deflected Bright Dike’s blast two minutes into stoppage denied them one.
But it didn't come. That's soccer. You understand if you've seen enough of these games.
"There's always another one," someone offers in diplomatic consolation to his dejected friend.
Kyle, who moved to the Rose City from Seattle 10 years ago, is standing outside the pub wearing a Timbers shirt. He's been a season-ticket holder since the team returned to Portland. Despite his place of birth, his allegiance now firmly lies with the Timbers.
"I don't really go to Seattle for the games," he said. "My friends up there are [disagreeable]. They are always chirping."
Some things never change.