LA Galaxy players have seen it from afar.
The flag-waving, anthem-singing Timbers Army. Timber Joey and his now-famous chainsaw. An energetic, never-quiet, jam-packed crowd at JELD-WEN Field.
It’s enough to make Galaxy players salivate.
“The atmosphere in the stands, the atmosphere in the stadium, this is what you want to play in front of,” Galaxy star David Beckham said on Tuesday. “You want to play in front of fans like this, who are passionate about the sport, passionate about the game and their own team.”
The Galaxy will visit JELD-WEN Field on Wednesday (10:30 pm ET, ESPN2) to square off against the Portland Timbers on their home grounds for the first time since the Timbers joined Major League Soccer.
While LA are riding a 14-match unbeaten streak and are coming off a convincing 4-0 rout of Vancouver, if the atmosphere in Portland is anything like it was in the Timbers’ pre-MLS days, players should expect it to be captivating.
“I played here when they had an A-League team and it was pretty loud and pretty passionate,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “From what we see on TV it looks pretty incredible so I’m excited for it.”
Donovan has played in Portland before, including a 2004 US Open Cup match against the USL Timbers when he was with the San Jose Earthquakes, and a friendly in '05 during his first season with the Galaxy. Beckham, however, had never visited the Rose City until he arrived there on Monday. While he did not get a typical Portland welcome — which would have meant rain, and perhaps lots of it — his first impressions were favorable.
“It’s beautiful,” he said on Tuesday. “Since I’ve landed I feel the fresh air. It’s a vibrant place. Everyone has been very friendly.”
He may not receive as warm a greeting at JELD-WEN Field. But that’s OK, he said. It’s one of the sources of his motivation.
“It’s great. It’s what gives me a buzz,” he said about the expected atmosphere in Portland on Wednesday. “It’s one of the reasons why I’m still playing the game that I’ve loved and have played for many years. I’ve loved going into stadiums and them being full and a packed house and getting that atmosphere.”
This match will be the Galaxy’s second in a span of five days as the Galaxy played at Vancouver for the first time on Saturday. Combined with Seattle, the league’s Cascadia teams have been a boon, LA boss Bruce Arena said.
“The atmosphere looks great,” he said. “[Portland] is going to be if not the best certainly one of the best franchise in the league. The Pacific Northwest has been fabulous. We’ve been in all these venues and they have capacity crowds and great support. ... They bring great stability to our league.”
While the Timbers have struggled at home of late — an 0-4-2 mark followed a 5-0-0 start at JELD-WEN Field — the Galaxy expect a difficult opponent to face them on Wednesday regardless of the record.
“We’re playing in one of the toughest venues in MLS and it’s a great challenge for our team,” Arena said. “If we could walk away with three points it would be a fabulous performance on our part.”