PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers have never had to question the loyalties of the Timbers Army.
The famed support shows up early, packs JELD-WEN Field and makes the game atmosphere raucous and rowdy, drawing attention from around the world. But the last time the Timbers left the pitch – heads down after a 1-0 loss May 30 to amateur side Cal FC in the US Open Cup – that loyalty appeared to be in question. The small but angry crowd booed and chided the team’s effort with less-than-supportive chants.
But almost a month later, with bitter rivals Seattle coming to town for a nationally televised Sunday game (5 pm ET, ESPN, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com), that’s all water under the bridge, spokesman Dave Hoyt, former president of the Army’s 107ist, told MLSsoccer.com. He said now more than ever, with Portland sitting in eighth place and facing a crucial stretch of nine straight Western Conference games, is the time to show the Army’s undying support.
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“I think one of the big differences between Portland and Seattle is Seattle was very clear from the beginning that their support was going to be based on the success of the team,” Hoyt said. “And we wanted to do something that was based more around the community and how the team itself tied into the fans and the city at large.”
Hoyt said that, much like a family, there are going to be tough times. And while a result may sometimes be frustrating, the motto “Rose City ‘Til I Die” is something they take seriously.
“Even in the times of frustration, both among the fans and the team, I really don’t think there’s a question of commitment,” he said. “We’re putting this much heart into doing something that is hopefully inspiring [the team], and no matter what happens on the field, we know there’s a connection between the players and the team and the fans. And they go out there on the field and demonstrate that, and this Sunday we get a chance to demonstrate it back.”
That leads to one of the Army’s signature events, unveiling pregame tifo when the Sounders come to town. Last year, on a nationally televised game against Seattle, the Army unfurled a giant playing card featuring the phrase, “King of Clubs.”
This year, Hoyt said, the tifo will surely surprise casual observers.
“I think you will be impressed,” he said. “I was blown away by the amount of support and the amount of people we had come together to put this together. I think this will absolutely capture some people’s attention.”
Without divulging specific details, Hoyt said the tifo will be an examination of the true meaning of “Rose City ‘Til I Die.”
“There really is a connectivity between the team, between the fans, between the city,” he said. “And I think our goal is to make all those things indivisible. So what we’re talking about is not just what the team means to us but what the city means to the team as well and making that as one.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.