CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy are well aware of the passion exhibited by fans of Seattle Sounders FC in their annual visits to what is now CenturyLink Field, but they likely haven’t seen anything yet.
The Galaxy head to the Pacific Northwest this week for games against the two newest teams in MLS, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., FOX Soccer, FOX Deportes) and Portland Timbers (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
Take it from Galaxy members who have played in what Sounders co-owner Drew Carey once jokingly called “the triangle of death.” Those fans are among the best and most passionate in Major League Soccer. And smallish facilities such as Vancouver’s Empire Field and Portland’s JELD-WEN Field should make things even more challenging for visiting teams.
“They have some of the greatest fans in the U.S.,” said Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who played four seasons with the Timbers and, in 2005, led them to a first-round USL playoff victory. Saunders initially joined the Timbers in 2002 on loan from San Jose and played a number of games in Vancouver. “Even though it was a USL team, they still had crazy fans.
“There’s probably going to be some interesting posters and signs up there, but I think we’ll be prepared for a bit of a raucous crowd.”
Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall remembers watching Portland’s home opener on television earlier this year and couldn’t help but be amazed at the atmosphere.
“It was great. They had chants like they do in Europe,” said Birchall, who played for Brighton and Hove Albion in England’s League One prior to joining the Galaxy in July 2009 while also representing Coventry City and Port Vale in his native country. “It was one of those games where you say, ‘I can’t wait to play there.’
“I’m really looking forward to it.”
Bryan Jordan is another veteran of the Northwest, playing for the Timbers as a rookie in 2007 before signing with the Galaxy in March 2008. He was something of a fan favorite amongst the Timbers Army after scoring five times for the club as a rookie before further cementing his place in Portland lore with three goals and a pair of assists in nine games with the club on loan from the Galaxy in 2008.
“I’m just one of those players that like to work hard, and maybe the fans kind of saw that,” he said. “I did well my first year up there, and maybe that’s why they took a liking to me.
“I just think as a whole region they really come out and support the teams up there. From Vancouver to Portland and Seattle they just love their soccer.
“It should make for a great game.”
Saunders also has fond memories of the area – he said he met his wife, Hilary, there – and is curious to see what kind of reception he gets upon his return.
“I’m sure I’ll hear a couple of good shots from the crowds,” he said with a grin. “It will be nice to go back there.”