PORTLAND, Ore. – FOX Soccer's debut telecast of Soccer Night In America arrives in Soccer City, USA, on Friday (10:30 pm ET, FOX Soccer, Watch for FREE online).
It’s another feather in the cap of the first-year MLS Portland Timbers, who have built a formidable reputation at home as the Timbers Army take the sights and sounds of the game to new levels.
Three weeks past the emotional first weekend at JELD-WEN Field, players have come to trust that the support and wall of noise coming from the north end of the stadium will be there.
“If I didn’t say I was a little surprised, I’d probably be lying,” captain Jack Jewsbury said. “This is my first time here in Portland to experience this, and it’s unbelievable. The support we’ve gotten, the energy level in this stadium … it’s like no other in the league.”
The Timbers will attempt to feed off that energy, much the same way they have in league contests against Chicago, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake. Portland scored first goals in the 29th, 13th and 22nd minutes of those games.
The Philadelphia Union present a formidable defense that may be difficult to penetrate. The Union have conceded just two goals in six games.
“They’re very organized,” Jewsbury said. “They get numbers behind the ball, so it’s going to be an exercise in breaking down a lot of pressure. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”
The Timbers would like nothing more than to follow the pattern that resulted in a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake last Saturday. Score early, then hold the lead. It was the Timbers’ best defensive showing to date.
“If you keep zeros on the scoreboard [defensively] you keep yourself in the league and I think that’s important in this league,” Jewsbury said.
And if the Timbers can squeeze more balls into the Philadelphia net, all the better for the FOX Soccer crew to employ their new camera angles, graphics and replay technology.
“I think it’s great that we’re going to be the first [Soccer Night In America] game,” Jewsbury said. “And our fans, our crowd, and the excitement they bring to the game is going to be in the spotlight. Hopefully our fans realize that, and as players that we have a good performance and good result.”
As an added bonus, Portland’s soccer fans will welcome the return of Danny Mwanga, who moved to the city from the Democratic Republic of Congo as a teenager and immediately became a soccer sensation at Jefferson High School. He went on to star at Oregon State for two years before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.