Monday, May 9, 2016

How to Be a New York Soccer Fan In Portland -- 2016 Edition

The New York Red Bulls don't play away to the Portland Timbers this season. But New York City Football Club do, this coming Sunday.

Before You Go. Like its Pacific Northwest neighbors Seattle and Vancouver, Portland is notorious for rain. The website for The Oregonian, Portland's major newspaper, says the temperatures will be in the high 60s during the day and the high 40s at night next Sunday, and, lucky you, there should be no rain.

Portland is in the Pacific Time Zone, 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. Portland has only 2 teams in major league sports, the NBA and MLS. They also have a team in the National Women's Soccer League, and, more than any other city, they pack the joint for both MLS and the NWSL. The Timbers averaged 21,142 fans per home game last season, a sellout. Tickets will be tough to get.

Fortunately, the nature of soccer means that an entire section is set aside for visiting fans. At Providence Park that is Section 223, at the southwest corner (the right field corner, if they were still using the stadium's baseball setup). Tickets are $35.

Getting There. It's 2,895 miles from Times Square to downtown Portland, and 2,887 miles from Red Bull Arena to Providence Park. In other words, if you're going, you're going to want to fly.

After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days to get there. One way.

But, for future reference, if you really, really want to drive... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and stay on that through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah. Outside Ogden, Utah, at Exit 168, switch to Interstate 84 West. Take that into Idaho and Oregon, all the way to the end of I-84.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 6:45, Wyoming for 6:30, Utah for 3:30, Idaho for 5:30, and Oregon for 6:15. In total, that's around 49 1/2 hours. Given rest stops, we're talking more like 60 hours -- 2 1/2 days.

That's still faster than Greyhound, 70 hours, changing buses in Denver, $438 round-trip, but it could drop to $338 with advanced purchase.

It's also faster than Amtrak: 67 hours. You'd leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM on Thursday, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Friday, switch to the Empire Builder at 2:15 PM, and arrive at Union Station in Portland at 10:10 AM Pacific Time on Sunday. Round-trip fare: $464, before booking sleeping arrangements).

Union Station, which serves Amtrak and Greyhound, is at 550 NW 6th Avenue. 6th & Hoyt station on MAX. The "GO BY TRAIN" sign atop its clock tower is reminiscent of the "UNION STATION TRAVEL BY TRAIN" sign at its namesake in Denver.
A round-trip flight from Newark to Portland, for the distance, is quite cheap: It can be had for $643, if you don't mind changing planes in Dallas or Phoenix. The MAX Red Line will get you from the airport to downtown in 33 minutes.

Once In the City. Founded in 1845 as the end of the Oregon Trail, in the shadow of Mount Hood, legend has it that the name of the town was decided by a coin flip. Francis Pettygrove wanted to name the town after his hometown of Portland, Maine. Asa Lovejoy was from Groton, Massachusetts. Pettygrove won, and that's why the Knicks aren't playing the Groton Trail Blazers next Saturday.

Portland, a.k.a. the Rose City or PDX (for its airport code) has a population of around 620,000, and a metro area of about 3 million. It's still growing, but not as fast as it was in the 1980s and '90s, when a group successfully lobbied to slow down the suburban sprawl. It was named PLAN, for Prevent Los Angelization Now.

The State of Oregon has no sales tax, and this covers the County of Multnomah and the City of Portland. The Willamette River is the divider between east and west, and Burnside Street, including its bridge over the river, is the divider between north and south.

ZIP Codes in Oregon begin with the digits 97, and Portland and its suburbs use 970 and 971. The Area Code for Portland is 503, with 971 overlaid.

TriMet, the area's public transit service, runs buses and the MAX light rail system. A single fare is $2.50, while a day pass is $5.00. They also run the WES Commuter Rail.
A MAX train, downtown

The capital of Oregon is Salem, about 50 miles southwest of downtown Portland. The 1st 2 State Houses were destroyed by fires in 1855 and 1935. The new State House opened in 1938, but it looks like a cross between an Art Deco church and a prison. Fortunately, the grounds are covered with examples of Oregon's natural beauty, but also include a pair of burned, broken pillars from its predecessor.
Going In. The official address of Providence Park is 1844 SW Morrison Street. It's about a mile west of downtown. Parking is cheap: Depending on the lot, you can get it for under $7.00. If you'd rather not drive, use Kings Hill/SW Salmon Street MAX station.
MAX station

This started as a minor-league baseball field named Multnomah Field in 1893. It was replaced by Multnomah Stadium in 1926. The name has been changed to Civic Stadium in 1966, PGE Park in 2001, Jeld-Wen Field in 2011 and Providence Park in 2014. Elvis Presley played one of the earliest stadium concerts at Multnomah Stadium on September 2, 1957.
Civic Stadium in 1969

At 21,444 seats, it was one of the largest ballparks in the minor leagues. It was home to the Pacific Coast League's Portland Beavers from 1956 to 1972, again from 1978 to 1993, and again from 2001 to 2010. It was home to the Portland Mavericks of the Northwest League, the team with whom Jim Bouton began his post-Ball Four comeback and co-invented Big League Chew. It was home to the Portland Rockies of the Northwest League from 1995 to 2000. Currently, the city doesn't have a professional baseball team.
Portland State University plays football there, and both the University of Oregon and Oregon State University played "home" games on the site between 1894 and 1970. It was home to the Portland Storm, later the Portland Thunder, of the World Football League in 1974 and '75, and the Portland Breakers of the USFL in 1985.
An overhead shot from 2009, before
sideline seating was built in the former left field,
making a return of baseball to the stadium impossible.

The original Portland Timbers, of the original North American Soccer League, played there from 1975 to 1982. After the NASL folded, the Timbers were reconstituted, began play in 1985, folded again in 1990, started again in 2001, and joined Major League Soccer in 2011. (There was never any question that the team would keep the old NASL name upon entry in to MLS.) The Portland Thorns of the National Women's Soccer League began play there in 2013. While their masculine counterparts are one of the best-supported teams in MLS, the Thorns are the best-supported team in the NWSL.
Civic Stadium hosted Soccer Bowl '77, in which Pelé and the New York Cosmos won the NASL title by beating the Seattle Sounders. (I wonder if the Portland fans rooted against Seattle.) It hosted 4 games of the 1999 Women's World Cup, and 6 of the 2003 edition, 1 involving the U.S. It's hosted 4 games of the U.S. men's national team, 3 wins and a draw, most recently a 2013 win over Belize.
Pelé holding the NASL trophy,
after his last competitive match.

Visiting fans are instructed to enter at Gate 5, at the stadium's southwest corner. This will lead you right into Section 223, the section for visiting supporters. However, Providence Park being an old stadium, you'll have seats aimed straight ahead, and you'll have to turn your head to see nearly all of the action. The field is artificial, and is aligned (more or less) north-to-south.

Catty-corner from Providence Park, on the southeast corner of 18th Avenue and Salmon Street is another stadium, used by adjacent Lincoln High School. As far as I know, neither the Timbers nor the Thorns use it as a training facility.

Food. Centerplate Catering runs the concession stands at Providence Park. These include Timber Pie, British-style meat pies provided by Pacific Pie Company; Timber Brat, a bratwurst stand; and the Thai Curry cart.

Four carts operate on a rotating schedule out of the Soccer City Grill concession stand, above section 93 in the stadium's southeast corner. Big Ass Sandwiches serves "Over-the-top sandwiches stuffed with sliced meats, french fries and bechamel sauce." Nong's Khao Man Gai serves a "famous dish" of poached chicken and steamed rice with ginger sauce and a cup of broth. 808 Grinds, named for Hawaii's Area Code, serves heaping plates of Hawaiian plate lunch dishes like shoyu chicken and Kahlua pig. 
Porklandia Panini serves sandwiches. Bahn Mi Dog serves Vietnamese-style hot dogs. (Don't worry, they're beef and pork, not actual dogs.) Tillamook Quesadilla Cart serves 4 kinds of toasted quesadillas including Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese, Philly Cheesesteak, Cubano, and Grilled Chicken. The Wood Shed Roll serves a sandwich that features Carlton Farms pork butt braised in Widmer beer, plus Tillamook White Cheddar cheese, wrapped in soft pretzel bun.
Olympia Provisions Charcuterie Box serves salamis and pates, Tillamook Cheese, crackers, and house-made marmalade. Bacon Bleu Cheese Tots are tots topped with Oregon Bleu Cheese, crumbled Zenner's bacon, chopped green onions, diced tomatoes, and chipotle ranch sauce.
There's a Tillamook Grilled Cheese Station, Carlton Farms Pulled Pork, and Tillamook Mac ‘n Cheese Dog: a Zenner's quarter pound hot dog on a Franz stadium roll smothered in house-made Tillamook Mac 'n Cheese.
Team History Displays. The original Portland Timbers played in the North American Soccer League from 1975 to 1982. In 1975, they reached the title game, the Soccer Bowl, but lost to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Only 3 more times did they reach the league's final 4.

The new Timbers, who started in a minor league in 2001 and were admitted to MLS in 2010, have already surpassed their forebears. They are the holders of the MLS Cup, having beaten the Columbus Crew in last year's Final (in Columbus, no less), and also won the regular-season Western Conference title in 2013.

The 2015 MLS Cup banner hangs under the roof by 3rd base -- excuse me, by the northeast corner. Next to it is the Portland Timbers Ring of Honor, with 5 honorees, all connected to the NASL version of the team. On the other side of the Ring of Honor is the Thorns' 2013 NWSL Championship banner.
The Timbers, the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps -- all named for teams that played in the NASL -- have competed for the Cascadia Cup since 2004. The Timbers won it in 2009, 2010 and 2012 -- but not in 2015 (despite winning the MLS Cup).
The Cascadia Cup

Clive Charles, an East End London man who played left back for West Ham United before playing with the old Timbers, stayed in town to coach the University of Portland team. He was managing the U.S. national team's Under-23 side when he died of cancer in 2003. The Timbers have retired his Number 3.

The only other number they've retired is 5, worn by longtime fan Jim Serrill, a.k.a. Timber Jim, an actual timber-industry worker who became an unofficial mascot for the NASL Timbers, and stayed with the various incarnations of the team until retiring in 2008.

Also in the Ring of Honor, although not with their numbers retired, are John Bain, Jimmy Conway and Mick Hoban. Bain was a Scottish midfielder who played for Bristol City, and then for several American teams, including the old Timbers. He later managed a version of them, and has spent most of the last quarter-century coaching high school soccer in Portland. Conway was an Irish midfielder who played for Dublin club Bohemian F.C., West London's Fulham, and Manchester City, before playing for the Timbers, and later coaching at and managing the minor-league version. Hoban is an English midfielder who played for Birmingham-based Aston Villa, before coming to the Timbers, and staying in town to work for Nike.

Stuff. Despite Oregon's association with Nike, another shoe company sponsors the Timbers' main shop. The adidas Timbers Team Store is at KeyBank Plaza, on the corner of SW 18th Avenue and SW Morrison, at the northeast corner of the stadium.

Michael Orr wrote a book about the original version of the team: The 1975 Portland Timbers: The Birth of Soccer CityCascadia Clash: Sounders versus Timbers, by Geoffrey C. Arnold of The Oregonian and former Seattle goalie Kasey Keller, tells of the best rivalry in MLS. And, to commemorate last season's title, the staff of The Oregonian compiled Green & Golden: Portland Timbers' Historic March to the MLS CupThere is also a team video available, titled Portland Timbers We Adore You.

During the Game. Portland is a relatively safe city. The Timbers have a bit of a rivalry with the Seattle Sounders, but that mellow Northwest vibe is going to hang over the stadium, and they're not going to get aggressive toward New Yorkers -- Timber Joey's chainsaw to the contrary. As long as you don't provoke anybody, you'll be fine.

The Timbers hold auditions for National Anthem singers, rather than having a regular singer, but they only let groups do it, not individuals. 

The aforementioned Timber Jim had a trademark of cutting a round from a large log with a chainsaw every time the Timbers scored (those of you who are Rutgers fans will note the similarity to a player driving an ax into a stump in the corner of the stadium, keeping with the "Keep Chopping" theme), and presenting the round to the scorer after the game. He also cut a round for the goalkeeper if he kept a clean sheet. In 2008, the retiring Timber Jim was replaced by a younger man, Timber Joey, and the tradition continues.
The main supporters group was founded in 2001 as the Cascade Rangers, a nod to the Northwestern mountain range. In 2002, due to complaints about being associated with bigoted Scottish club Rangers (and because the Timbers' green uniforms reminded people of Rangers' crosstown Glasgow arch-rivals, Celtic), the name of the group was changed to the Timbers Army.

They gather 4,000 strong in Section 107, which they call The Woodshed, right behind the north goal, and engage in all the European "ultra" traditions: Scarves, flags, drums, smoke bombs, and 90+ minutes of constant noise. They may well be the best supporters' group in North American soccer; certainly, they seem to have the most stamina and the biggest tifos. 
As you can see by the photo, the Army now pretty much takes up the entire north end (the old 3rd base stands). Individual sections have nicknames like the 101st Amphibious Assault, the 102nd Airborne Division, and so on. Section 208 is a group of older fans, nicknamed Del Boca Vista, after the fictional Florida retirement community on Seinfeld.

The Timbers are one of the few MLS teams that seeks out supporters from outside its home region. In addition to elsewhere in Oregon (Capitol City Company in Salem, Echo Squadron in Eugene, Mt. Bachelor Brigade in Central Oregon, Jefferson Reserves in Southern Oregon, Govy Brigade in the Mount Hood area), they have fans elsewhere in the Northwest (1st Montana Volunteer Infantry, Northern Alliance across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington State, Midnight Sun Elite in Alaska, Inland Ultras along the Washington-Idaho border, and Timbers Army: Covert Ops in the Seattle Area, Sounders territory). They even have fan groups from outside the Northwest: NYC Loggers, D.C. Federal Reserves, Heartland Regiment (Midwest), Sunshine Squadron (Florida), Lone Star Brigade (Texas), Green and Golden Gate (Bay Area), even London Timbers.

They sing their theme song "Portland Boys" at kickoff, "Rose City 'Til I Die" when a goal is scored against them, "You Are My Sunshine" in the 80 minute, and Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" in the 85th. They take chants not just from the traditional MLS sources of England, Italy and Latin America, but also from Greece, Russian and the Middle East.

There is some controversy over their take on a classic, as to whether it's disrespectful to women: "Portland Boys, we are here, steal your women and drink your beer!" Then, of course, there's their take on the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K.":

I am a Timbers fan
And I am an Oregonian
I know what I want and I know how to get it
I wanna destroy Seattle scum
'Cause I... wanna be... Rose City!

Less controversial, because they were proactive, was the Timbers fans' handling of the YSA situation.When the visiting team goalie was mere feet away from them, getting ready for a goal kick, the fans would yell, "Ahhhhhhhh... " and when the ball was finally kicked, yell, "You suck, asshole!" Knowing that this might cast them in a harsh light during negotiations to get their team into MLS, the Timbers Army stamped the chant out, and it worked, as they were admitted to the league.

After the Game. Portland's reputation for safety, and their fans' reputation for being noisy but not nasty, will work in your favor. Both you and your car should be safe.

If you're hungry after the game, there's a Taco Bell 2 blocks away, at 21st & Burnside. Want something better? Okay: The Bunk Sandwiches Truck is parked outside the stadium, starting 2 hours before kickoff. Uno Mas, a fast-casual taqueria, offers a big lineup of little tacos, most priced around $2.50. The Boise Fry Company, while not exactly a British-style chip shop, is big on fries and their dips, and serves burgers as well. Both Uno Mas and Boise Fry are on West Burnside Street, at 1914 and 1902, respectively, a block north of the stadium.

The Jolly Roger, at 1340 SE 12th Avenue at Madison Street, is known as a hangout for New York Giants fans. They may also be welcoming to RBNY or NYCFC fans. Bus 4 from Rose Quarter Transit Center. I have also heard that Kingston Bar & Grill is a Giant fans' bar. 2021 SW Morrison Street, at 20th Place, across from Providence Park.

If you visit Portland during the European soccer season, the following clubs' supporters meet at the following locations:

Arsenal: Beulahland, 118 Northeast 28th Avenue, about 2 miles east of downtown. Bus 20.

* Liverpool: 4-4-2 Soccer Bar, 1739 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Bus 14.

* Everton and Tottenham Hotspur: The Toffee Club, advertising itself as "an English football pub," and apparently owned by a fan of Everton, a.k.a. "The Toffees." 1006 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Bus 14. If you don't see your club mentioned, this is the likeliest place.

* Manchester City: Lightning Will, 305 NW 21st Avenue. Bus 15.

* Manchester United: Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub, 112 SW 2nd Avenue. Blue or Red Line to Skidmore Fountain.

* Chelsea: Highland Stillhouse (Scottish theme), 201 S. 2nd Street, Oregon City, 13 miles south of downtown Portland. Bus 35.

Sidelights. Being a relatively small city, albeit the 2nd-largest in America's Northwest, Portland doesn't have much of a sports history. But there are a few items worth mentioning.

* Memorial Coliseum and Moda Center. The home court of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers has an official address of 1 North Center Court Street. The Moda Center is bounded by Ramsay Way (named for former head coach Jack Ramsay) on the north, Wheeler Avenue on the east, Multnomah Street on the south and Center Court Street on the west. MAX reaches the arena via Rose Quarter and Interstate stations.

Opening in 1995 as the Rose Garden, it was renamed for healthcare provider Moda Health in 2013. It is also home to the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks (for some but not all games), and the Arena Football League's Portland Thunder. The court is aligned northwest to southeast.

The Blazers' former home, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, is across Center Court Street. It opened in 1960, and was home to the Blazers from their 1970 debut until 1995, and the Winterhawks full-time from 1976 to 1995 and part-time since then. The Winterhawks have won the President's Cup as Champions of the Western Hockey League in 1982, 1998 and 2013, and the Memorial Cup in 1983 and 1998.

It hosted the 1965 NCAA Final Four, with UCLA beating Michigan in the Final. This was also the 1st Final Four to feature a New Jersey-based team, the Princeton squad led by future Knick and future U.S. Senator Bill Bradley. The Beatles performed at the Coliseum on August 22, 1965, and Elvis Presley sang there on November 11, 1970 and April 27, 1973.
* Portland Ice Arena site. From 1914 to 1926, the Portland Rosebuds played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Their home ice was the Portland Ice Arena. In 1916, 100 years ago, they won the PCHA title, and became the 1st American team to play in the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the National Hockey Association Champions, the Montreal Canadiens. (Don't mention this to Portland fans, but the next year, Seattle became the 1st American city to actually win the Cup.)

The team included future Hall-of-Famers Dick Irvin Sr. (father of the legendary broadcaster), Ernie "Moose" Johnson and Tommy Dunderdale, but folded in 1926, and its players were mostly brought east to form the Chicago Blackhawks. This makes it interesting that Portland's current minor-league team is the Winterhawks, who share the Chicago team's Indian head log.

From 1928 to 1941, the Arena was home to the Portland Buckaroos. Several teams of that name played in Portland until 1975, and were replaced by the Winterhawks in 1976. The Arena closed in 1953 and was demolished. NW 20th & 21st Avenues, Northrup & Marshall Streets, a mile west of Union Station. NW 21st & Northrup on MAX.

Portland has the NBA and MLS, but don't expect it to get teams in the other sports soon. Its population would rank it 24th in MLB, 21st in the NFL and 19th in the NHL. For the time being, the closest MLB and NFL teams are in Seattle, 173 miles away; and the closest NHL team is in Vancouver, 314 miles away.

An April 23, 2014 article in The New York Times shows that the most popular MLB team in Portland is the closest team, the Seattle Mariners, but it's not overwhelming: They average about 22 percent of Portland baseball fans, while the Yankees and Red Sox battle it out for 2nd place, in the 10s. The September 2014 issue of The Atlantic shows that the most popular NFL team in Portland, and in most of Oregon, is the Seattle Seahawks -- and while this was after the Hawks' Super Bowl XLVIII win, it was before they got into Super Bowl XLIX. Southwestern Oregon, closer to California than to Washington State, prefers the San Francisco 49ers, while southeastern Oregon prefers... the Dallas Cowboys, as does neighboring southwestern Idaho. Ew.

The University of Oregon is 114 miles south on I-5, in Eugene. It can be reached by Cascades Point bus from Union Station, although this will take 2 hours and 45 minutes and cost $26 -- each way. Oregon State University is 87 miles south, in Corvallis. You'd have to take at least 2 conveyances to get there, and it would cost $50.50 -- each way.

Portland's top museum is its Art Museum, at 1219 SW Park Avenue. The Oregon Historical Society Museum is across the street at 1200 SW Park. City Hall station on MAX. The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry is at 1945 SE Water Avenue. OMSI/SE Water station on MAX.

Oregon has never produced a President. The closest it's come is the years when an orphaned Herbert Hoover lived with an uncle growing up in Newberg, 25 miles southwest of downtown Portland. The Hoover-Minthorn House is at 115 S. River Street. There is a bus that goes there, but it's prohibitively expensive, so if you want to see it, you should rent a car.

As with Utah, the tallest building in Oregon is named the Wells Fargo Center. This one opened in 1972, and looks it: It's rather dull architecture. It stands 546 feet at 1300 SW 5th Avenue. City Hall station on MAX.

The TV shows Bates Motel (based on the film Psycho, which was also set there) and Eureka were set in Oregon. Specifically in Portland, Leverage, Portlandia, and the brief 1990s CBS crime drama Under Suspicion were both filmed and set there. Unfortunately, the most famous TV show set in Portland was one of NBC's all-time turkeys, the late 1970s McLean Stevenson sitcom Hello, Larry.

In addition to Psycho (which was filmed in Southern California), films based in Oregon include Ice Cube's Are We There Yet? series, the Madonna bomb Body of Evidence, Drugstore Cowboy, Five Easy Pieces, The Goonies, Arnold Schwarzenegger's comedy Kindergarten Cop, The Lathe of Heaven, Mr. Brooks, Mr. Holland's Opus, My Own Private Idaho, Overboard, Paint Your Wagon (Clint Eastwood in a musical? Yes), Pay It Forward, the track & field movies Personal Best and Pre (the latter about Steve Prefontaine, the 1st athlete to endorse Oregon-based Nike footwear), The Postman (Kevin Costner's postapocalyptic film, a.k.a. "Kevin's Gate"), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Short Circuit, Stand By Me, and, of course, the film version (which he hated) of Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.


And on that note, let me remind you that the city has the slogan "Keep Portland Weird." The Timbers, with one of American soccer's longest histories, are a part of that. This is not a threatening town, unless you don't like weird things.

But you're from New York (or New Jersey), so you're used to weird. You should be able to have fun in Portland.

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