–by Brian Cheney
Empty seats, small lines, and chanting TA members: I’ll admit, my first T2 game was a bit of a surprise. After all, I remember quite well when Providence Park was this way, and recently I’ve heard quite a few members grousing about the overcrowded nature that the North End has assumed. To me, the relatively small confines of Merlo seemed like a welcome trip down memory lane. To the TA, they could be the next trend.
Imagine a place of plentiful beer, open seats, and professional soccer. Now throw in some players with the potential to be on the Timbers roster. Boom: you’ve got Merlo field. Surprisingly, though, the average attendance for T2 last season was 3,054, which is far from the full capacity of 4,892. The reasons for this lack of attendance seem obvious: a long, weird commute, a lack of competitiveness, and a lack of atmosphere. Who could possibly compare such a place to Providence Park?
However, the parallels between the current state of affairs in the stands of Merlo and the Timbers of several years ago are striking – save for the weird commute. I’ve been unfortunate enough to take the bus out to U of P, and I completely understand the lack of desire to make such a trip again. I found parking to be just as big of a problem when I was fortunate enough to drive.
This massive barrier should be enough to regularly deter most Timbers fans. Fortunately, our numbers and the small capacity of Merlo make this for the better. For beyond the long commute is something that many TA members would relish: a chance to do it all over again.
As with any organization, the TA has grown to become what it is today. Many of us, including myself, have not been around for long enough to appreciate all of the changes. But, as is human nature, many of those who have been around for awhile may often look back on the days of yore with a great fondness, while also appreciating that the North End is unlikely to go back to what it once was. The building of match day traditions (tifo, scarf waving, chants, etc.) is something that is surely treasured by each member as much as it is revered by those of us who are new to the fray.
Equally, I’m sure there are those among us who wish that those days were here so that they could be a larger part of the proceedings. Now that they’ve seen that the work is worth it, why not participate? Such people may believe those times to be no more.
But those days are not gone! For in Merlo and in T2, there is a chance to recreate and to reinvent match day traditions. Indeed, the empty seats and the relatively quiet songs of the TA yearn to be reinforced with many a drunken TA member. All within a suburb stadium where future Timbers (and promising international players!) play the junior members of rival teams.
I see this trend as somewhat inevitable, but let’s make it so. Let’s create an atmosphere that is worth remembering. We’ve shown MLS what we can do, but let’s remind USL. Let’s create a new set of game day traditions that make matches better for all involved.
As always, the Timbers have brought the beer and the soccer. Let’s bring the noise.