On a Wednesday night when much of their Army did not report to duty, the Portland Timbers carried on.
The Timbers hosted Monarcas Morelia — as well as their fanatics — for an international friendly and won 1-0 at Jeld-Wen Field.
Defender Futty Danso, who served as captain for the match, scored the decisive goal on a penalty kick late in the first half. Although Portland played without nine regular players — three on international team duty and six resting — the team remained unbeaten through 18 straight games across all competition.
“We still played our style,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. “I thought we didn’t miss a beat.”
Morelia, currently on a tour of four U.S. cities, lost its second straight preseason game and before exiting for the visitors’ locker room, several players approached the trio of referees to continue their match-long feud.
“It’s a shame that they put these types of referees for this game,” Monarcas head coach Carlos Bustos said through an interpreter.
The outcome, however, did not temper the enthusiasm of the 13,124 in attendance — a crowd with a heavy Monarcas influence.
The Monarcas — the Spanish word for “Monarchs” — hail from Morelia, Michoacan and play in Mexico’s first division, Liga MX.
On Wednesday evening, it seemed like a little slice of Morelia had sprouted up along the southwest corner of Morrison Street and 18th Avenue.
Monarcas fans accomplished the unimaginable — drowning out the rowdiest home crowd in Major League Soccer.
Dressed in their team’s bright yellow and red colors, the passionate fan base filled the west end of Jeld-Wen Field while the empty green seats dotting the stadium revealed that many in the Timbers’ Army had other plans besides rooting for the home team in a friendly.
Even so, thanks to the passion from the Monarcas fans, the atmosphere simmered on high.
A full band — complete with brass instruments and a guy banging off rhythm on a drum set — played throughout the match. The musicians did not even yield to the playing of the national anthem. Danso, however, wielded the power to silence the songs — if only for a moment.
Fouled while executing a bicycle kick in front of the Morelia goal, Danso lined up for a penalty kick at the 40th minute. As Danso prepared for his one-on-one against goalkeeper Federico Vilar, both sides rose to their feet and began the battle of who could be the loudest fans.
After Danso located the top right corner of the net to give Portland the one-goal lead, he then received a leaping teammate, Kalif Alhassan, into his arms and the hysteria reached new volumes.
Danso’s goal appeared to unhinge Monarcas as moments later, midfielder Aldo Leao Ramirez picked up a red card and ejection for abusive language. Vilar, while defending his teammate, earned a yellow.
Through the first half, Monarcas committed 12 fouls and four players received penalty cards for various infractions.
While Bustos praised the hospitality in Portland and even pitched the possibility of continuing a friendly competition with the Timbers, he did not mince words about the officiating he perceived as poor.
“We wanted to put on a good show for the fans,” Bustos said. “But I’m leaving with a poor taste in my mouth because of the referees.”