An Army of Many

Timbers Army fan club stretches into Clark County to support soccer

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

Did You Know?

• The Timbers Army of Southwest Washington recently formed as a way to bring together local soccer fans and support youth soccer in Clark County. To join or to learn more, check out the Timbers Army of SW Washington group page on Facebook.

• The Timbers Army got its start in 2001 when a small group of fans who banded together at The Bitter End pub and in section 107 of the stadium. There are no membership requirements or dues.

• The 107 Independent Supporters Group, or 107ist, formed in 2009 to oversee Timbers Army community projects. It raises funds through a $25 annual membership and through sales of scarves and other Timbers Army souvenirs. It currently has 1,735 members, up from about 800 in 2010.

• The name Northern Alliance was the overwhelming choice in an informal online discussion of what to name the Timbers Army of Southwest Washington.

I am a Timbers fan

And I am an Oregonian

I know what I want and I know how to get it

I wanna destroy Seattle scum

Cuz I wanna be Rose City

Sung to the tune of “Anarchy in the UK” by the Sex Pistols, the above is one of the many chants that members of the Timbers Army deliver during the course of a Portland Timbers soccer match.

Those lyrics might lead a listener to believe the Timbers Army considers the Columbia River its northern border.

Turns out, that’s a false impression. And — no surprise here — Timbers Army members who hail from Southwest Washington are loud, proud, and eager to gather with like-minded Clark County citizens.

Known for standing, chanting and singing, through every Timbers match — by the thousands at home and by the hundreds on the road — the Timbers Army quickly caught the attention of Major League Soccer. Its antics help make Timbers’ games at Jeld-Wen Field an event.

“I’ve never felt so welcome in a group of strangers,” said Brent Diskin, explaining how several years ago he became enamored with the Timbers and with soccer after taking in a match from the Timbers Army section at the north end of the stadium.

On June 25, when the Timbers played at F.C. Dallas, Diskin was one of about 40 green-clad fans who brought a taste of that passion to downtown Vancouver, gathering for a viewing party at the Dublin Down Irish Pub. Their team gave them little to cheer in a 3-nil loss that evening, but that didn’t quiet the chanting or weaken the bonds between newfound friends.

Spearheaded by Vancouver residents Kelly Dews and Troy Maxcy, the Jan. 25 viewing party was the first official event for the Timbers Army of Southwest Washington, which aims to give the Timbers Army a footprint in Clark County while assisting area youth soccer players.

“Our primary focus is supporting the Timbers,” said Dews, the driving force behind the new group. “Beyond that, we would like to support charities in Clark County.”

One thing this new Northern Alliance won’t do is separate itself from the Timbers Army.

“From the beginning, I made it very clear I want to make sure this thing stays under the 107ist and the Timbers Army banner,” Dews said.

Dews has the support of the Timbers Army and the 107 Independent Supporters Group, — or 107ist — that oversees Timbers Army community involvement.

“We encourage it,” said Garrett Dittfurth, a board member for the 107ist. He noted that small groups of Timbers Army members have long gathered together in their neighborhoods around greater Portland to watch matches.

The Timbers Army dates to the 2001 Timbers’ return to professional soccer as a second-division club. The 107ist — named for section 107 where the Army formed in 2001 — began in 2009 as a way for the Timbers Army to contribute to the local soccer community.

“The Timbers Army is one big, massive group,” Dittfurth said. “There are so many different perspectives and points of view, and that’s part of what makes it great.”

The Timbers jump this year to Major League Soccer has expanded the reach of the Timbers Army. But it has had a presence in Vancouver for several years.

A group of about 20 Timbers fans calling themselves the Westside Supporters have been getting together informally to watch Timbers games since at least 2008, according to Nathan Lill. Lill said that group simply wanted to spread their enthusiasm for the Timbers and for soccer, but became much more.

“Now we go to each others weddings and we help each other move,” Lill said “It became about more than soccer now.”

Lill said he and other Westsiders are happy to join the Northern Alliance and help promote support for the Timbers and for all levels of soccer in Southwest Washington.

This year, the Northern Alliance plans to offer financial help to one player with Pacific FC, and to the Vancouver United Soccer Alliance. About $250 was raised through donations and raffles at the June 25 viewing party doubled as a fundraising event. Dews said. A sale of special Timbers Army Northern Alliance patches is also planned, and the group plans to submit an application for support from the 107ist.

Typical of Timbers Army events, many in attendance that Saturday were meeting for the first time. Dews said word-of-mouth and social media were used to spread the word about the group. He said the number of members of the Facebook group for the Timbers Army of Southwest Washington grew from 10 to 72 in less than three weeks. As of Monday, his Facebook page had 86 members.

As for that chant about being an Oregonian, Northern Alliance supporter Jacob Wright said it is no big deal.

At the appropriate time, Wright said, he yells “I’m a Washingtonian!”

Yes, Wright draws some looks from fellow Timbers Army members in the north end. But it’s also an opening for friendships that last for at least 90 minutes — and often longer. After all, the Timbers Army welcomes anyone — even if they’ve never paid soccer much notice.

“Anybody who can appreciate sports and what it means to be a fan instantly gets it,” Brad Ohlgren explained of watching a game from within the Timbers Army. “When the Timbers score, you instantly make 20 new friends.”

That feeling of togetherness inspired Dews to see if many of his Clark County neighbors share his passion. He was pleasantly surprised by the response.

Like the Timbers Army, the Northern Alliance welcomes anyone who lives or works in Southwest Washington — or who just wants to check out the soccer scene north of the Columbia River.