Sounders Insider

Timbers-Fire kick off MLS arrival in Portland

It's gone final: Portland gets its first MLS win, 4-2 over the Chicago Fire.

Garber speaks: Here's some of what commissioner Don Garber had to say at halftime. I'll add more later:

On the night: Remarkable. An absolutely historic night for our league and for I think the sport overall in North America and certainly for the city of Portland and the Timbers.

We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to create special environments in a handful of cities, and we have one hear tonight. It just kind of warms my heart to see fans celebrating and getting excited and showing their passion for their club. I think these pictures – it’s nationally televised and around the world and throughout the entire planet, and that’s good for us.

On Timbers Army) They’re great. They’re very similar to what’s been going on in Philly with the Sons of Ben and the Emerald City Supporters group and so many others. Supporters are really the engine that’s driving the excitement that’s going on around our league in many ways. As I looked around this stadium as they’re doing their cheers and those who are not in that group trying to be a part of that, share that enthusiasm and excitement.

48th minute:

Timbers make it 3-0 on goal by Perlaza.

Halftime: 2-0, Timbers. We're about to hear from MLS commissioner Don Garber.

38th minute: Timbers go up, 2-0, this time on a goal by Rodney Wallace. Unassisted.

28th minute: Timbers move ahead 1-0 on Jorge Perlaza goal. Portland and dominated flow so far.

Kickoff: The game has begun. Timbers Army singing.

Pregame ceremonies: First, nothing to do but tip hat to Timbers' Army. Their size and enthusiasm is amazing.

MLS commissioner Don Garber has addressed the crowd. Fireworks have been fired. The two teams are lined up on the pitch: Fire in red/red, Timbers in green/white. Behind them on the pitch are flags of all MLS teams. (Sounders very close to the middle.)

Final nice touches: Timbers Army sings the national anthem, and raises a three-section display tribute to the home city of Portland. Amazing. Nothing to say but welcome to the league.

The weather: They didn't catch a break for this opening. It's been varying from cloudy to drizzle to pretty much pouring. Fortunately, a large majority of seats are under the overhanging roof. But still: really nasty evening.

The crowd: An hour before kickoff, and Timbers Army is jammed all across the arc of the north end. Very impressive.

However, there is Timbers-themed tarp over the upper sections tonight. That isn't because those seats couldn't be sold. I'm assured they would have sold out easily at full configuration. However, they decided that they might want not to strain everything to the limit on this maiden voyage.

News from Sounders: I tweeted this earlier, but Fredy Montero was one of 19 Sounders who flew out today to Philadelphia. Whether he will be part of the 18-man roster on Saturday hasn't yet been announced.

First impressions: My overriding impression is that if you ever visited the old PGE Park, the new Jeld-Wen Field won't seem much different.

The signature change is significant: turning what used to be left and center field into a proper soccer stand, hugging closely to the touchline. Having the unoccupied seats spelling out "PORTLAND" is a nice touch. And so is a photographic tour of Portland, stadium and Timbers history along the back side of the new stands. There is also a private club over there. And the gift shop is much nicer and airier than what was here before.

However, the rest of the stadium -- the main concourse and the stands are virtually unchanged from what was here when this was a minor league ballpark. And they chose to go with artificial turf. Deep nice artificial turf, but still. The replay screen is clear, but quite small by modern/Qwest standards.

And of course, the main advantages and disadvantages of the park's location remain. On one hand, there are lots of restaurants and bars around. On the other, there's as close to no parking as at any stadium I've ever visited. But on the other other hand, it's right on the light-rail line.

Because of the urban location, the enthusiasm of the fans, and the compact footprint of the stadium, this will probably be a pretty terrific place to watch soccer. But on its opening day, it gets points for being unique among the MLS stadiums, but even on opening day, it's not possible to rank it among the best.

Gameday: I have arrived at Portland'srenovated and newly named Jeld-Wen Field, for tonight's MLS debut in the Rose City. The Timbers and Fire kick off at 8 p.m., and the game will be shown on ESPN2.

Here's a game preview from the Oregonian.

As for traffic and parking, well, here's more from the Oregonian. Just another reason to be grateful for Qwest.

After settling in a bit, I'll go wander and report back with some early impressions.

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