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Saunders, Jordan looking forward to return to Portland

The LA Galaxy’s game at Portland’s JELD-WEN Field on Wednesday (10:30 pm ET, ESPN2) will be the first time many of the team face the likes of the Timbers Army and Timber Joey.

Bruce Arena, for instance, has yet to coach against the Timbers away. David Beckham had never even visited Portland until he joined the club in the Rose City earlier this week.

But for two Galaxy players, a visit to Portland means a return to their roots. Galaxy ‘keeper Josh Saunders and defender Bryan Jordan have been part of the Timbers family at one point in their respective careers and each will carry a little extra with himself into Wednesday night's match.

“My first professional experience I ever had was playing here,” Saunders said on Tuesday. “I have a lot of family still in the area. It’s great. It’s always nice to come home.”

Saunders and Jordan have each spent a great deal of time in Oregon. Saunders was born in Grants Pass, Ore., and said he will have upwards of 20 family members and friends at the stadium to cheer him on. Jordan, meanwhile, went to school at Oregon State University in Corvallis and is one of a rare group of players who have scored goals for Oregon State, the Portland Timbers and the Galaxy (Alan Gordon is another member of the club).

Jordan was a key player for the Timbers in 2007, scoring five goals in 26 games as the Timbers reached the semifinals of the USL-1 playoffs that year. He returned briefly on loan the following year. 

“I’m excited,” Jordan said of the upcoming match. “I’ve been excited for Portland since they got their team. It’s great to the league, more and more teams added to it. It will be quite a bit different now, coming in and playing for the other team but hopefully they will still be kind to me.”

What sets the Timbers apart — both Saunders and Jordan said — is the support and loyalty shown by the fans.

Portland have gained a quick reputation as having one of the most passionate fan bases in MLS, and Galaxy coach Bruce Arena hailed the club as already being one of the best franchises in the league.

Saunders can attest that support and loyalty is true.

“When you play for the Timbers, it’s special because you have the fans with you all the time,” Saunders said.

Saunders played for Portland from 2003-06 and helped the team to playoff and US Open Cup victories. Ironically, he was in goal for a 1-0 loss to the Galaxy in an Open Cup game in 2005 on the Timbers' home field.

Now that he’ll be on the opposite side, he will have the chance to see things from the opposite side. He said he hoped whatever hostilities lobbed his way will end once the final whistle blows.

“Playing against the Timbers … it’s going to be tough," Saunders said. "I’m sure I’m going to catch a lot of stick. After the game, as long as they cheer for me, give me a wave hello, that’s all that matters.”