The top professional soccer team in the U.S. is located in what was once a soccer desert: Portland, Oregon. However, since joining the MLS in 2011, the Portland Timbers has had 87 consecutive sellout home games. And, after a rough start in Major League Soccer, the Timbers closed their 2015 season as national champions and opened the 2016 season ranked number one. The team, founded in 2009 in Portland as part of MLS, has an interesting past including years as a pre-MLS soccer team.
The Timbers began their soccer affiliation with the North American Soccer League (1968-1984) making it a 40-year old team. Interestingly, in order to come up with a name, the local newspaper, The Oregonian, held a contest in 1975. Although the name Pioneers won the contest with 157 entries, the name was rejected because a local college already held that mascot. It was during the same time that this Portland dentist became a die hard fan! Twelve entries had submitted the Timbers name, but that didn’t stop team stockholders from selecting it from among the 3000 entries.
As the team was being formed in 1975, The Oregonian recognized that their hometown’s knowledge of soccer was limited. They decided to publish an article, including a diagram and description, of how the game is played.
In order to attract its first players, the team held an open tryout and sent a coach to England to recruit players from the country’s elite First Division clubs.
The Timbers’ first game took place on May 2, 1975 against the Seattle Sounders. They lost in 1 – 0 in what would be the beginning of a long-standing bitter rivalry! However, they later beat the Sounders in the playoffs that same year.
MOVING TO MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER:
The team made the jump to the Major League Soccer division in 2009. However, it took a two year campaign and tens of millions of dollars to keep the team in Portland as a member of the MLS. The agreement included the need to provide an appropriately-sized stadium.
The announcement that the Timbers would remain in Portland as an MLS team was made on March 20, 2009 during the 2009 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament being held in Portland the same week. Once the team made the jump to the MSL, a former MLS forward and now assistant coach by the name of John Spencer was named the team’s first MLS head coach in 2010.
The first MLS game for the Timbers took place on March 19, 2011 against the MLS champions, Colorado rapids. They lost 3 – 1 and the Timbers ended their first season in 6th place in the Western Conference and 12th place overall. It only got worse the following year as they finished the 2012 season as the third worst team in the league and 8th (out of nine) in the Western Conference.
The team began turning things around under a new head coach in 2013, Caleb Porter, and finally found success finishing first in the Western Conference and third overall in the U.S. Since then, their starts continue to align and the team has steadily risen winning the MLS championship in 2015.
If you are a Portland Timbers nut like I am, here’s a cool clip from youtube for you: