The day many Portland soccer fans have dreamed about for many years is finally here.

And I’m not just talking about the Timbers finally playing a home game at the top level for the first time since 1982, it’s much more than that.

For the first time, the Timbers will be playing at home in a stadium that is suited for soccer, and I’m sure will be quickly recognized as one of the best (if not THE best) soccer specific facility in the United States. It’s not an erector set quick and dirty stadium or a massive NFL stadium as many other MLS teams play in. It can also claim genuine heritage as a soccer mecca, as the site of Pele’s last professional game, and the only site in the world to host games in two consecutive World Cups, either men’s or women’s. But JELD-WEN Field, formerly PGE Park, Civic Stadium, and Multnomah Stadium, has finally been converted to the beautiful stadium that we all knew it had the potential to be.

It’s a genuine neighborhood stadium, which of course means almost no nearby parking, but fortunately that’s a obstacle soccer fans learned to deal with years ago, with fans happen to hop on MAX or walk from the downtown parking garages. Of course there are few professional sports franchises in the US that could ever even conceive of having a facility with no parking, but the fact that this isn’t a problem for soccer fans in Portland is part of what makes this city unique.

So now that the beautiful stadium that sites in a natural gully at the corner of 18th Avenue and Morrison Street on the west side of downtown Portland has finally been turned into the stadium it deserves to be, it’s time to welcome a brand new Timbers team. Of course the team is technically an expansion team, the changes are actually not much more than we have seen between seasons in the Timbers past. The front office is largely the same, with coach Gavin Wilkinson having moved into the General Manager position exclusively, and nine Timbers players remain from the 2010 second division squad, a well as two from the undefeated U-23 Championship team from last year. So though the coach is new, the uniforms are new, and all the league opponents are new, it’s not going to be a completely new squad, and I’m sure many Timbers fans enjoy the familiarity of this team truly being a continuation of the proud history of the franchise.

So as you prepare to take in tonight’s match, whether it’s at JELD-WEN Field, or on TV, take a few minutes to take in the experience of the Timbers once again playing at the highest level, an accomplishment that Merritt Paulson and the Timbers managed to achieve despite the barriers and doubts that it could happen, and a stadium finally fully worthy to be called the Timbers home pitch, and realize that this is a truly historic night, when soccer in the US finally reached the pinnacle of truly being able to deliver the beautiful game in the way it’s meant to be.

Photo is from this OregonLive article: