- by Clifford Eiffler-Rodriguez
Being a part of Timbers Army FC helped me get stuck in.
I moved to Portland in 2003 and lived in the area on and off for several years. I had read about the Timbers and Timbers Army. However, it would take many years before I drummed up the courage (and the cash) to start attending games in late 2008. I was immediately hooked. Despite standing on the very edge of the TA, I was amazed at the connection I felt to the group, and the group to the club. It was the most vibrant and authentic sporting experience I had ever been part of.
In an effort to learn about the community and get to know people, I stumbled upon the SCUSA message board and spent countless hours trying to soak in the culture of the group. This led me to buying my first set of scarves, occasionally posting, and even attending a few away matches (the 2010 U.S. Open Cup trip to play Kitsap remains a notable one) where for the most part I knew people, but more than likely they didn’t know me. A couple of years in, I remained largely only a witness to the spectacle.
With a growing passion for the game, my interest in starting to actually play soccer had been stoked. When I first moved to Portland, I was introduced to playing as an adult by signing up for the intramural program at PSU. It was a neat game and it scratched an itch. Soccer, at its most basic level, was a game accessible to people of all skill levels.
Despite moving away for a couple of years (and cleating the crap out of everyone playing pickup in Salem), when I moved back to the area, I started looking for a team to join in Portland. I was bouncing around, working for various indoor soccer facilities, and while the employee discount afforded me a chance to play soccer, I wasn’t playing the same game that I saw from the stands of PGE Park.
Poking around the internet, I found out about the Greater Portland Soccer District (GPSD). I soon learned that there was a TA-specific league. After posting on the message board with the hopes that a desperate manager would take a flyer on a nobody, my search ended up grinding to a halt. My requests had fallen on busy ears.
So, I kept my eyes open.
Then came open play. It was an initiative led by the TAFC committee to rent a field and invite players from the league and any others who were interested to come to play under the lights at Buckman Field. Since it was open to anyone, I decided to head down with the small hope that I could find a team with an available spot.
After a couple of open play sessions, I connected with Bill, who was leading the committee at the time, and shared my desire to join a TAFC team. He couldn’t promise anything. Most of the teams had full rosters and turnover was limited. But eventually he heard that one of the teams, Guerreros Verdes FC (which would later become FC Bridge City), were looking for some players for the upcoming season and connected me to their manager, Manny.
Manny’s team was looking for center backs for the upcoming season, and despite having never played the position, I was happy to step into the role. He invited me to a tryout to scrimmage with the team and some friends to make sure I was a good fit.
From my point of view, it was an absolutely disastrous performance. The only time I had played 11v11 was in the fourth grade, and frankly, I had no idea I was doing out there.
After the scrimmage, I went to Five Guys to drown my sorrows in a huge pile of fries. That’s where I ran into Leo, a member of the team, and he was very gracious about my performance. However, I thought there was no way I would ever hear from these guys again.
I don’t know if Manny can illuminate the conversation the managers had that day, but having managed several teams since, half the battle is getting players to pay and show up to the games. A couple of days later an email arrived with a .doc which outlined the team’s rules and expectations. These guys were serious.
That first season was beautiful. The adjustment to playing the game was difficult, and I made my fair share of mistakes, but the team found itself driving out Gladstone HS to take part in the Fall Championship game against RCA.
I still feel we were robbed. At least we got to ease the pain of the result with carnitas.
Results aside, I had found a home within the TA. Guys who had my back on the field and who I could share a drink with post-match. Timbers games became a place where I no longer high-fived strangers after a goal, but hugged friends. There was no turning back.
Since then, the family has grown, and I have had the opportunity to play with more and more people from the Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters.
At times the Timbers Army FC world is big and complicated. We partner with the city, PPS, and a bevy of other organizations across the city to run leagues, put on tournaments, and get people out playing soccer.
It’s a heavy lift. We largely depend on the work and goodwill of volunteers to make these things happen. But when I stand at Buckman watching the Donut Derby being played or lace up my cleats to take the field for Thundercats FC, I cannot help but think that we are fulfilling this following commitment by the 107ist: "The mission of the 107IST (107 Independent Supporters Trust) is to support soccer in and around Portland, Oregon, from the grassroots to the highest professional level."
I love the volunteers who give so much time to make this happen.
I love the teams and players who I can count on to show up and play.
Honestly, when it comes down to it, this is one of the purest representations of this game that I can imagine.
I am so happy to have met and played with so many of you. This is a family that I cannot believe exists.
I love PTFC, but at the end of the day, nothing bring me more happiness than seeing family and friends on the field.
This is something special. Thank you so much for being a part of it.