Portland Timbers: There’s No Place Like Home


With the Portland Timbers yet to notch a “W” away from home in the current MLS season, we can see just how important home is to the Timbers.

The Timbers away record isn’t inspiring.

0-4-6. They’ve taken six points out of a possible thirty away from home. That’s a porous 20%.

Well, something has to be working if the Timbers are still in the hunt for a playoff spot.

They’re 6-2-1 at home. Quite the difference.

I’ve always been intrigued by what makes a team a good home/away team? What’s the limiting factor in the equation?

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I honestly believe it might be the tifos.

Would it be possible to imagine having a bad game when you’re stepping onto the pitch at Providence Park suited in the colors of Oregon’s forests, as you listen to the rumble of the Timber’s Army?

No, probably not.

Well, it could be that good home teams just seem to have that extra something when it’s match day in their city.

And maybe for the Portland Timbers, Providence Park fills the void of that extra something.

As an avid Arsenal fan, how could I not be convinced by a stamp of approval given by Thierry Henry’s to Providence Park?

"“I’ve played in a lot of stadiums before. It was a great atmosphere playing at Barcelona, playing at Arsenal, playing some big games in the World Cup, but I have to say the fans are amazing. Credit to them, they are amazing – they didn’t stop singing, they were there an hour before the game outside singing. Wow. Amazing.”–Theirry Henry"

David Villa continued the praise.

"“Amazing. So far it is the best, the best in MLS in my opinion,” Villa said after the match. “A lot of games, a lot of the stadiums have very good atmosphere. But for me, in my opinion so far, Portland is the best atmosphere.”–David Villa"

Beautiful words.

But the tangible atmosphere, the tifos, and the sporting passion, all has its roots deep in the history of Providence Park.

The magic came from a team the stadium hosted before the Timbers.

Specifically it came from, an independent baseball team, the Portland Mavericks operated by actor Bing Russell, Kurt Russell’s dad.

Yea, Kurt Russell, the same guy in The Hateful Eight, Escape from New York and so on.

That guy. His dad, Bing, loved baseball in its purest form.

I know. Sounds made up, but it’s true. Here’s the proof.

The Portland Mavericks were initially the only independent baseball team in the short-season Class A Northwest League in1973.

This is during a time when the MLB started to implement their ‘farming’ system. MLB teams began to develop and train players in the lower divisions to scout out talent for the big league.

It was the start of corporate baseball. The process inevitably diluted the aurora associated with minor league baseball.

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But not in Portland, they still had true ball games.

The team was a collection of players that almost had ‘made it’ to the majors, some were older than the competition, and even Kurt Russell played for them in the opening season.

The team was a gem for Portland. It embodied everything good in sports. Players played because they felt for the game, they wanted more from it; they were still chasing the dream.

Oh, and they were really good.

Everyone wrote them off, laughed at them but the Portland Mavericks not only started to win, but they started to do so convincingly. It reached a point where the MLB teams began to send some of their players down to their respective minor league team just so that they could stop the Mavericks.

In their final season, the Portland Mavericks won the division by 22 games, clinched their third division title and set a record for the highest attendance in short-season minor league baseball history.

That kind of stuff changes places. It defines and gives significance. It provides validation that greatness has happened here and will continue to do so.

It’s embedded in the Timbers Army and their tifo’s, Timber Joey’s slab of log for goal scorers, and I’m absolutely convinced that the only way we got past Sporting Kansas City in the 22 player penalty shootout was the sheer willpower of the Portland supporters who were parading behind Kwarasey’s goal.

There really can be no other explanation.

Love for a sport transcends to an appreciation of all sports. There are no boundaries.

And in this case, the Timbers are the direct beneficiaries of Portland’s love of sports.


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P.S. Check out the Battered Bastards of Baseball on Netflix. It’ll do the Portland Mavericks more justice than I ever could.