10 A.M. on Championship Sunday and in the heart of downtown Portland, 2,000 miles away from the location where the 2015 Audi MLS Cup took place, and three hours before kickoff the sidewalk was full of people in green, gold and Rose City Red, waiting in line to get into McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom Auditorium for the viewing party of their beloved Portland Timbers.
One hour before the doors even opened at 11 in the morning, the corner of SW 14th and SW Washington is already wrapped with people waiting in the cool December air. As if even Mother Nature knew what that day meant for the people of Portland, for she didn’t want to make them suffer by giving the fans a nice overcast, with the sun fighting its way to make an appearance as well in the cool 50 degree weather. A far cry from the flash flood that would hit the same area 24 hours later. By the time the doors opened at 11, and the crowd had consumed their makeshift breakfasts of Starbucks or local hotspot Blue Star Donuts just a block away while waiting in line, the crowd had taken over the sidewalk around the block.
Inside the auditorium there was a slow building buzz, as people found the seats that were available, and within half an hour you were left standing to watch the match as all the seats had been taken. And with under an hour left until kickoff, all of a sudden the party was taken to another level as a “PT. FC. PT. FC.” chant took over the place. Boos rained down whenever the screen would show the Columbus crowd, a Crew player, or former Sounder Kasey Keller who was part of prematch broadcast crew. Just the opposite would happen whenever a fellow fan or Timber player would be on the screen. The Star Spangled Banner sent a chill down the spin as everyone joined in the Timbers tradition of involving the scarf during the singing of our countries anthem.
Finally, after waiting over three hours the game kicked off, and before you could get through the first Timbers cheer the score was 1-0 Timbers and the place burst into Bedlam. 1-0 this early? It was hard to believe what you were seeing, as people jumped off out of their seats and arms waved into the air. A few minutes later, Rodney Wallace would double the lead and pandemonium would follow. When Columbus grabbed a goal back it was like the whole auditorium was sucker punched in the gut at one time and the air had been sucked out of the place.
The second half was a constant ride of emotional swings. With every play going the Timbers way, the crowd would rise to their feet in anticipation. Every close call on the Portland goal, or last ditch defensive play would be followed with loud cheers and claps of approval for a job well done. The chances the Timbers had that almost lead, to expanding their lead, were greeted with yells and even a few cheers with people thinking the Timbers had actually scored.
As the last minute of extra time ticked away, and the last half effort of Columbus was to no avail, the crowd cheered in anticipation of that final whistle. When the ref finally blew for the end, irruption of euphoria hit the auditorium. Bliss in its purest form hit the crowd as hugs and high fives filled the air. The young lady taking pictures of the event broke down in tears of joy as the moment overwhelmed her. Kisses of happiness filled the room as chants continued.
On the streets, cars were honking and people were chanting, “When I root I root for the Timbers!” Fans stopped traffic for a brief moment to celebrate with random strangers they came across. As the sun settled and the night sky came, the party would continue outside the home of the Timbers at Providence Park. Green smoke bombs and red flames filled the corner outside the stadium as people cheered and chanted into the night.
After forty years of soccer, and five as an MLS franchise, the Portland Timbers had won their first championship. The people who celebrated it, did in a matter that reminded you why Portland is dubbed Soccer City, USA.