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Portland writer to unfurl history of Soccer City, USA

McMenamins Old Church to host presentation by sportswriter Michael Orr


by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The Portland Timbers present-day success, as seen here at this 2013 match, has a direct connection to the past. The Timbers that will be discussed at Michael Orrs Jan. 28 presentation. Coming off the Portland Timbers’ historic 2013 playoff run, it’s easy to forget how far back the club’s history runs.

But longtime supporters recognize the team’s pedigree. It runs back nearly four decades to the days of the long-defunct North American Soccer Association, which once featured the likes of Pele and the fabled New York Cosmos.

In fact, the Timbers improbably challenged for the league title in the 1975 NASL Soccer Bowl, the league’s championship match, only to fall 2-0 to the now-forgotten Tampa Bay Rowdies.

That was the beginning of a full-blown love affair that shows no signs of abating anytime soon. Sure, there have been a few off years, notably the stretch from 1990 to 2000 that featured no professional soccer at all in the Rose City.

But since the reintroduction of the Timbers in 2001, the love affair returned to Portland in full force and now is highlighted by the largest soccer supporters group in North America, the Timbers Army. The club’s 2013 post-season run, which saw the Timbers reach the Major League Soccer semifinals, only cemented the status of Portland as “Soccer City USA,” a term first coined in the midst of the Timbers inaugural run to the championship 38 years prior.

Now, Wilsonville-area soccer fans have a great chance to hear about the history of the club and how it connects with the present day.

On Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m., Michael Orr, a Portland-based freelance sportswriter and author of the book “The 1975 Portland Timbers: The Birth of Soccer City,” will give an in-depth presentation at the Wilsonville McMenamins Old Church and Pub. The presentation is free to the public and open to all ages. It is co-sponsored by the Wilsonville Public Library, McMenamins and the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society.

According to Orr, “Soccer City, USA” was the inspiration of Timbers’ original general manager, Don Paul. In a 2011 article by independent publisher History Press West, Orr speaks of how Paul was quoted by a local sportswriter ahead of the Timbers’ second-to-last regular season home game, the Timbers’ first sell-out of 27,000 fans in the old Civic Stadium. It was, Orr said, part of a larger declaration in which Paul told a sportswriter that the capacity crowd would show the visiting Seattle Sounders which city was truly Soccer City, USA.

“From that day forward,” Orr said, “Portland has been a city that has embraced both the Timbers and the game of soccer in a unique way.

"Part of that is inherent in the mentality of Portlanders who are extremely proud of their hometown players. Part of it has come from an amazing fostering and growth of the game, first through the Timbers and then through players and fans who have carried on the Timbers’ traditions in youth and collegiate programs.”

Orr’s presentation also will touch on the razor-sharp, decades-long rivalry between the Timbers and Seattle Sounders. It is unmatched in today’s Major League Soccer and given its roots this is hardly surprising.

“There is no more bitter rivalry in North American soccer,” Orr said.

Today’s matches between the Timbers and Sounders require separate entrances and police protection for visiting fans, while the Cascadia Cup, a trophy between the Timbers, Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps, is highly coveted by supporters and players of those clubs alike.

“Even in 1975,” Orr said, “this rivalry was intense.”

Come early to grab a seat for this look into one of Portland’s cultural institutions. Much like the NBA’s Trail Blazers, the Timbers transcend sport and have become an integral part of the city’s identity and landscape.

For more information, visit fcmediallc.com, where information on Orr’s book and Timbers’ history can be found.

McMenamins Old Church and Pub is located at 30340 SW Boones Ferry Road. For more information, visit mcmenamins.com/Wilsonville.



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