MLS season's just around the corner for the wild green storm

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Members of the Timbers Army, the lifeblood of the soccer team's following, occupy the north end of Jeld-Wen Field during games. The Timbers expect another year full of Jeld-Wen sellouts. Single-game tickets go on sale Monday, Feb. 18.Single-game tickets for Portland Timbers’ games go on sale Monday, Feb. 18.

Want some? Get in line early, or get online quickly.

They will all sell, and each of the Timbers’ 17 home Major League Soccer games will be sold out. It has happened in the first two years of the MLS Timbers, and it’ll happen again, continuing what could only be described as one of the most unique phenomenons in Portland sports history. The Timbers haven’t made the MLS playoffs, yet, and the fans still go to games, with the season-ticket waiting list at about 6,000 and renewal rate at 97 percent.

Much like Blazermania in the 1970s, just what might happen, should the Timbers win more games and make the playoffs?

“When it all comes together on the field, it’ll be absolutely magical in this city,” says Mike Golub, Timbers chief operating officer.

For now, it’s simply the place to be, Jeld-Wen Field on Timbers game day.

The home season starts, unofficially, on Sunday, Feb. 17 against San Jose in an exhibition game, followed by two more games next week. The Timbers play New York on March 3 in the MLS season-opening game at Jeld-Wen.

Can’t get tickets? Don’t fret. Each of the team’s games will be on television, including 11 nationally televised games on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC or NBC Sports, and the other 23 on either Root Sports or KPTV.

The Timbers sport a new coach, Caleb Porter, and several new players — good news for the likes of longtime fan Scott Swearingen, president of the Timbers Army, the colorfully visible and vocal fans who occupy about 5,500 seats (actually, standing up the whole game) in the north end of Jeld-Wen.

“It’s kind of a fresh, new beginning,” the Portland resident says. “It’s definitely heightened expectations, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”

More wins? Doesn’t really matter as much as fans feeling part of the team, and the players feeling part of the community, Swearingen says.

“It’s never been about winning,” he says. “As long as the team reflects us and appreciates us and the values in the city of Portland, we’ll be there to support them.”

Their slogan: “Team, Town, Timbers Army.”

Timber Joey, aka Joey Webber the chainsaw-wielding, log-cutting mascot, says the Timbers fit into the city’s sports landscape nicely.

“It’s a sport that is very unique,” he says. “It’s abstract, and that’s the way our city works. We don’t like mainstream as much as abstract. That helps push it.”

Season tickets have been capped at 15,200, with about 5,000 single-game tickets to be made available for each MLS home game. Scattered seats have been added to increase attendance, but the team also spent time widening the field from 70 to 74 yards in the offseason.

The Timbers even fill Jeld-Wen for some reserve squad games. And, the Portland Thorns, the city’s new women’s soccer team, will debut in April, with Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan as the star forwards, and “I’d imagine we’d lead the league in attendance,” Golub says.

It’s quite a fan following in “Soccer City USA.”

“We never take that for granted,” Golub says. “We’ve been able to tap into the pulse of the city. It’s a hot ticket. People love the experience. It’s really become an important part of the fabric of the community.”

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