—by Scott Jeffries
The following is an opinion piece. It represents the views of the author, and may not represent the views of the Timbers Army or 107ist Board of Directors.
Every year the Timbers kick off their home campaign with a tournament featuring three other teams: two MLS sides and a foreign club. The inaugural tournament hosting AIK was a memorable one that forged lasting relationships. Now the Timbers need to recognize another potential partner and invite Detroit City FC in 2016.
"Detroit City FC Supporters at Cass Tech" by BPesqueira - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
Detroit City FC is a fourth-tier club in the National Premier Soccer League. They have existed for all of three years. They currently play at a high school. Their players don't get paid. In spite of all that, they have some of the most passionate fans in American soccer. The 800-strong Northern Guard, DCFC's supporters group, was founded by members of the Timbers Army, brothers Gene and Ken Butcher, who brought the same ethos to that group. They sing loud and proud (often songs they adapted from us), they Tetris, they set off smoke, and they are active in their community. They are everything a supporters group should be.
When the Timbers came to Columbus to capture the MLS Cup, the Detroit City supporters jumped at the chance to help their cross-country brethren, offering rides to and from the airport and places to crash for anyone who needs them without asking anything in return. They did it out of a sense of community and shared identity. We were both there to hate Ohio, sure, but our ties run deeper than one mutual rivalry. The Timbers Army and the Northern Guard are one and the same, cut from the same cloth. I am a Detroit City fan now, and I can't imagine any Detroiter left that game not having become a Timbers fan (if they weren't already).
The Timbers have fanbases all over the country and Detroit is no exception. But the Timbers have unique potential to form even stronger ties to Detroit soccer fans. Their closest MLS teams are in Chicago and Columbus. No self-respecting Detroiter would ever support Columbus, and between the Lions-Bears, Pistons-Bulls, and Red Wings-Blackhawks, I can't imagine they're jumping to get on the bandwagon of a dismal suburban Chicago soccer team that their own city even struggles to support. This is a huge untapped market, somewhere from the 11th to the 14th largest in the country depending how you count it, that the Timbers can seize on, that already has a built-in connection to our city and club. The Detroit fans would surely jump at the chance to come to Portland for what would likely be their first Timbers game, the ones who stayed behind would follow the games with great anticipation, and those travelers would return home with tales of a vibrant and hospitable supporters group that helped birth their own. And Detroit as a city deserves to play on a higher profile stage than they ever have.
I can't think of any other team I would rather have in Portland next spring than Detroit City FC, and I can't think of any other fans I'd rather have in town than the Northern Guard. It would be great for the supporters and it would be great for both teams. But our club needs to know we want this to happen. Please, take a moment to write or call your ticket rep and request they invite Detroit City FC to the 2016 Rose City Invitational.