With the Timbers going to the MLS Cup Final this Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, I thought it would be fun to give a rundown on how we got here. And not just a basic rundown of the 2015 season, or even the five years in MLS, I wanted to give a 15 year rundown of the re-emergence of the Timbers in 2001 to how they got to MLS in the first place, and how many times the team almost didn’t continue on to the following season during that time. It’s been 15 seasons since that rebirth, so I’ll do three seasons per day all week:
It was August 31, 1999 when the announcement came out that Portland would be getting a second division A-League team starting in 2001.
PFE lands soccer team for 2001
Jim Taylor, who had helped organize the 1999 Women’s World Cup in Portland was named the General Manager, and it was a former Seattle Sounder Bobby Howe that would be the coach of the new team.
Timbers reborn with a former Sounder
The team was owned by Portland Family Entertainment, managed by former Trail Blazers executive Marshall Glickman and Mark Gardiner. Though there was alot of big-name signings at the beginning of the season, and the Timbers won their home opener 2-0 in front of a crowd of, and Timber Jim returned to be the heart of the Timbers supporters, and climb the pole at the southeast corner of the stadium during the second half. Though the Timbers did have a good season and made it to the second round of the playoffs before falling to Hershey, things were not going smoothly at PFE. At one point I was asked by Mark Gardiner to take over the team’s official website during a power struggle (I turned them down, preferring to stick with my own site), and at the end of the year, operations for PFE were transferred to The Goldklang Group, whose investors included Bill Murray and Mike Veeck.
It should also be noted that the Timbers Army (then called the Cascade Rangers) had started growing from a dozen or so at the first match to over 100 by the end of the first season, sitting in what was then called “The Woodshed” (as section 107 was known at the time).
Gavin WIlkinson in the 2002-2003 “hoops” kit
There was alot of player turnover for 2002, though the Timbers still had a good season and made the playoffs once again, but fell to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first round. This was also the year the “hoops” kits debuted.
On November 8, 2002, Portland Family Entertainment defaulted on the deal with the city of Portland
, and before the following season, PFE was dissolved into a smaller group of investors, though the TIAA-CREF investment group took a big loss on the first two years of the Timbers, but the team was stable financially for another year.
Clive Charles #3 is retired
The 2003 season is when the Timbers and their fans started to first feel a sense of loss. Not just that the Timbers missed the playoffs for the first time in their USL history, but also for the loss of one of the most well-known and long-time devoted Timbers fans when Paula Currier died in June. Later that year, Timbers legend Clive Charles lost his battle with cancer mere days before the Timbers were schedule to retire his #3 (which is retired for the MLS Timbers as well), which they did on August 29 before a 3-0 victory over El Paso.
At the end of the season, the city of Portland terminated the agreement with Portland Family Entertainment, which once again meant an offseason of uncertainty.
To be continued tomorrow with 2004, 2005, and 2006…