PORTLAND, Ore. – Sunday night, Portland Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey suddenly fell ill and had to be scratched from the roster for the opener of the Western Conference Semifinal series with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Naturally, that staggered head coach Caleb Porter--but imagine how the Timbers Army felt.
Unknown to all but a handful of people in the crowd at Providence Park, the team’s supporters’ group had planned a tifo honoring Kwarasey for his heroics earlier in the week in the Timbers’ stunning, knockout-round shootout victory over Sporting Kansas City. Nearly 40 people pitched in to construct it. And in fact, when most of the supporters set out for the stadium, he was still on the lineup for Sunday's game.
Mike Coleman, board co-chair of the Timbers Army 107ist, managed the Kwarasey tifo project. In the short time between when he arrived at the stadium and came back from grabbing a sandwich, the news dropped that the 'keeper was out. So, he asked his fellow fans, should they even go forward with the display at all?
“There was a debate. From my perspective we didn’t want to negatively affect Jake [Gleeson, backup goalkeeper] because he had to go in and do a job,” Coleman told MLSsoccer.com. “But by the same token, there was sort of this idea that those goalposts are probably enchanted or something, that there’s probably some Kwarasey power around them perhaps and that’s why that [Abdul-Salaam] ball bounced out on Thursday. So it still worked from that angle.”
But there was still something not quite right about a 60-foot by 50-foot tifo honoring a player who wasn’t even in the building, especially, in the mind of the banner's designer, considering the title: “The Power of Kwarasey Stops You Hosers." And just 10 minutes before the unveiling, said designer came to Coleman with a bit of an addition.
The construction of the original Kwarasey tifo / photo by Ray Terrill
"We were about to lift the banner, and he and a friend came running into the stadium and said we have to do something with this,” Coleman said.
They had whipped up another banner to add on to it. The text? “Next Week,” referring to Kwarasey’s hopeful return to the lineup for the Western Conference semifinals' second leg on Sunday in Vancouver. And as the tifo was raised, fans dropped the smaller addition simultaneously in a save worthy of Kwarasey himself.
“What he did will go down in Timbers lore for all time,” Coleman said of the goalie.
Unfortunately for the Ghanaian ‘keeper, he won’t be able to see it hoisted in person, as Coleman said the logistics of bringing it to Vancouver would prove too difficult.
“Yeah, they’re probably not going to give us any rigging,” Coleman said of the cables needed to hoist the giant display. “I don’t know what we have in store for Vancouver.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com