FONT & AUDIO

MORE STORIES


Chants, chainsaws and two Charas were only a small taste of the MLS Cup hosted by the Portland Timbers.



Everyone remembers their firsts.

That could be a first love or maybe a first concert or even their first goal on a Little League soccer team.

It's always fun to reminisce on those events and compare with friends, but let me tell you, I'm not sure many could beat the story of my first MLS match.

It all started with the pouring rain and brisk wind gusts in Portland, making being outside for any amount of time not very enjoyable, unless you were watching soccer, of course.

The hometown Timbers were taking on New York City FC with a shiny trophy on the line that MLS presented pregame. No, not the giant inflatable one that broke in half when it was rolled out to midfield.

There were chants, a chainsaw and a couple guys with the last name Chara to get things hyped before the kickoff. Nothing like I'd ever seen at an American football game and certainly nothing like baseball where the only chanting is "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in the seventh inning.

These songs from the Timber faithful lasted longer than a little stretch and there were no words plastered on the scoreboard to sing along to. All from the heart, over and over, for what felt like 20 minutes straight.

Truly something that is unmatched by fans of any other sport.

What was even more impactful than any chant is the red smoke let off around the 16th minute. Red because the fans recognize the internal issues within the Timbers' sister club in the Portland Thorns of the NWSL and the sexual misconduct they have endured.

Fans holding their club accountable, another thing you don't see in many other sports.

With the smoke cleared and the drums and voices still humming, the New Yorkers in light blue silenced them all with a goal off the hands of a man the crowd chants by name, Steve Clark, the Timbers goalkeeper.

Suddenly, the chants weren't as loud and weren't hanging around as long. Instead, the folks who made the trek from New York were singing their own chant, "Hey, hey baby. I wanna know if you're NYC."

Coming into the match, the NYCFC fans were rightfully fired up as well, and on the concourse chants of "That's not pizza!" could be heard making fun of the Providence Park selections.

Still, the Trees continued to fight, as anything can change in a game where one point has such a powerful shift on the outcome.

With each new run from Portland seemingly getting closer and closer to a goal each time, the drums and chants were building up inside the fans.

And, like every good first story, there has to be something truly memorable or historic about the moment. Even if some folks make it up, it's essential to the story.

Well, I can guarantee you this one in my first story, and the 25,218 folks inside sold out Providence Park can vouch for me.PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Portland Timbers fans cheer during the MLS Cup final against New York City FC on Saturday, Dec. 11, at Providence Park. Fans had to wait until the 94th minute for a goal to cheer on as the Timbers forced overtime.

In the final seconds of extra time in the 94th minute, Felipe Mora finally found the net for the Timbers to tie the game and score the latest regulation goal in MLS Cup final history.

NYCFC folded like a classic slice of N.Y. pizza. Thanks for that one Dillon Mullan.

Unfortunately for the Timbers though, that pizza bit back as the match went into penalty kicks, which is one of the most intense moments I've ever felt at a sporting event.

Five kicks for each team, whoever makes the most gets to party for the next two months.

Shooting into the goal in front of the Timbers Army, the New Yorkers weren't deterred and made four of their five to seal it after Portland missed its first two kicks.

It wasn't the outcome most in attendance hoped for, but the atmosphere and the play on the pitch was everything a sports fan could ever want.

Players at the peak of their craft, fans engaged in every second of the action and some high-drama to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and do it not just because it was cold out.

I couldn't have asked for a better first experience with an MLS match, and the bar has been set pretty high for matches ahead of me.

Portland will be back soon enough. The 2021 MLS Cup appearance was its third since 2015, so there is precedent for the Timbers when it comes to the playoffs.

With the soccer world eyeing Portland though, the Timbers and their faithful, despite the loss, showed why the city is Soccer City, USA.


You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.