Written by Elle Uecker
Let the name-calling begin. By making it to the MLS Cup, the Timbers have earned a lot of national attention this week. And some of it isn’t so stellar. As can be expected, the Timbers have been called a “hipster” club, begging a more creative attempt at an insult by everyone in the Portland area, but they’ve also been called the most divisive club in MLS, painting them as the team everyone else can’t wait to hate.
Among the reasons the Timbers could be considered divisive – perceived arrogance, proclivity for craft beer, the food item choices provided in the stadium – the Timbers’ Army itself seems to come up as the biggest factor. A satirical article popped up last week with the headline, “Timbers Fans Can’t Wait To Become The Most Insufferable Fan Base In Major League Soccer.” While it can be read with a sense of humor and a grain of salt, it apparently echoes sentiments of some MLS fans. What I see instead is a soccer club with unparalleled fan support. Other teams have fan groups like the Timbers’ Army, but none can match the level of enthusiasm and energy brought to each game.
According to Empire of Soccer, the Portland Timbers boast the longest season-ticket waiting list and continue to sell out every game played at Providence Park despite all efforts to add more seating in the stadium. Timbers game attendance may look lower than other MLS teams on paper, but that discrepancy is due completely to space available, not for lack of trying.
Anyone who has ever been to, or seen, a Timbers game can tell you that the stadium and the fans are nothing short of electric. In a USA Today article, Will Johnson tells a story of playing for Real Salt Lake and circling the date they would play in Portland on their schedule in anticipation. He says, “It’s everybody’s favorite trip. The atmosphere – it’s one huge party. It’s what soccer should feel like. You feel like a professional athlete here. You feel like you’re playing in a German stadium with a club that has a 100-year history.”
The same article notes that this support base started while the Timbers were still cruising below .500, before the playoffs, before the cup. So the fierce support of the Timbers’ Army isn’t dependent on the win column, but you better believe they’ll be out in force on Sunday in Columbus showing the world just what that win would mean.
And it’s a good thing they’ll be there, because it seems that neutral support in this weekend’s match is going to sway toward the Columbus Crew. For whatever superficial reasons, the Timbers don’t appear as likeable as some other clubs. I’ll choose to believe it’s because some people just don’t seem to like what they can’t understand. So at the risk of being sued by that guy who sued Taylor Swift, all these complaints and insults directed at the Timbers and their fans can be summed up in one rather catchy line, hater’s gonna hate.
The Timbers will play the Columbus Crew for the MLS Cup this Sunday, December 6, at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio at 1 pm PST. Television coverage provided by ESPN.