Ben Cunningham has been a season ticket holder since 1996 and an active member of the Cauldron since 2000. Ben, along with roughly 100 other Sporting Kansas City supporters, travelled to the Pacific Northwest last week to follow the club from Vancouver to Portland and back again. Read the account of his journey below.
When the MLS schedule was released during the winter many of Sporting Kansas City’s fans saw exactly what they were looking for. Most importantly there were no ten game road trips to start the season. But then there in April was a northwest two game road trip that we had talked about since MLS expanded into that part of the country. Fans had often talked and dreamed about how much fun a Wednesday and Saturday road trip would be in the Pacific Northwest region known as Cascadia. Booking flights and hotels began immediately and as the idea spread through social media the number of fans making the trip slowly grew to nearly 100. We all knew that this would turn in to a trip to remember, one that we will talk about in the Members Club for ages. And we were right.
Nearly 70 fans made the trek into Canada at mid week to see Sporting duel the Whitecaps. While hockey dominates the city of Vancouver there is still a European feel to the city that is rich in soccer tradition. The Southsiders, Vancouver’s version of the Cauldron, invited our fans to join them at their home bar Doolin’s Irish Pub. Our hosts were wonderful and fans were quickly trading scarves and sharing stories about our teams over pints of great local brews. And true to their form our amazing owners Robb Heineman and Cliff Illig made an appearance at the pre-game gathering, chatting with fans and further confirming what every Sporting fans now knows. We have the best owners in all of MLS, and we are thankful for them.
The Cauldron marched down Nelson St. to BC Place and the local fans quickly took notice of our passion. While we may have been out numbered we certainly made up for it in effort both on the field and off. The boys performed well with Aurelien Collin sending the away fans into a fever pitch with the opening goal. The second half saw Sporting attacking toward the traveling Cauldron, which lead to two more goals. As we all know our shutout streak came to an end on a debatable offside call but when you win 3-1 on the road nothing could bring us down, although you couldn’t tell that from the reaction of Jimmy Nielsen after the goal. His “discussion” with the line judge may have earned him a yellow card but it also gained him further respect from the fans to see just how important protecting our net is to The White Puma.
After the game and another gathering at the local sports bar our fans went their separate ways visiting local attractions including the mountains, parks and downtown sites. Some traveled through Seattle, Washington to enjoy that city as well. By Friday the Cauldron had converged on Portland and the group had grown to over 100 fans. The Rose City is a unique place but one that all fans should visit. Many describe the town as “quirky” and that certainly seems to fit the bill. Breweries, coffee shops and food pods (gatherings of food trucks that serve wide varieties of food made to order) litter the town and provide many options for visitors to enjoy the city. Little did the visiting Kansas Citians know but we also brought our warm weather with us as Portland had one of its warmest sunny days, which lead the locals to be very happy. To the visitors it was a normal 80 degree April day, to the locals it was a welcome break from the clouds and rain.
The Cauldron was hosted in Portland by Timber’s Army, quite possibly the most passionate and knowledgeable soccer fans in all of North America. We were welcomed into their home bar, The Bitter End, that is across the street from the stadium. Again pints were shared as both sets of fans complimented one another for having great teams and great fans. It was refreshing to learn how much Portland appreciates what Kansas City brings to soccer and for those long time fans that remember the dark ages of our franchise that appreciation is wonderful. Being recognized by other fans and described as “awesome” and “the best” is not something that long time fans are accustomed to. On and off of the field our club is growing in stature at lightning pace.
The game in Portland didn’t go as planned, but to be honest every fan knew the day would come that we would lose a game. We can take comfort in knowing that the only way this team can lose is to score for the other team. What the game lacked in scoring it made up for in well played soccer and atmosphere. We all love Chance Myers and will support him even more knowing that he will continue to be one of the best right backs in MLS. It was very unfortunate to lose a game in that fashion but even the best can experience an unlucky bounce of the ball. And while the Kansas City fans seemed genuinely happy to bring home three points from the road trip there was visible relief within the Timbers fans as they were able to break their four game losing streak.
Beyond the game there was the experience that is a Portland Timbers home game at JELD-WEN field. Every fan has seen it on television but the real life experience is simply breathtaking. The atmosphere around the stadium, the national anthem scarf tossing, the stadium filling chants of “PT!!- FC!!” and Timber Joey sawing off a log all are difficult to describe and must be experienced firsthand. In all the travels that the Cauldron has made over the years the atmosphere in our home and Portland are two of the best in MLS. MLS 2.0 is here and many teams would be well served catching the new wave of soccer madness in North America.
The trip to Portland is something every fan should do at some point and those of us that made this trip will never forget the time we had. The Cauldron always seems to find good relationships with away fans and this was no exception. By the end of the night after the game Timber’s Army and the Cauldron were the best of friends, wearing one another’s scarves and telling each other that we must get together again in the future. One particular fan was a hit with her old school Wizards Jack Jewsbury jersey, our former hero and Missouri native is now a local legend in Portland and captains the side.
To cap off the trip a good portion of the Cauldron had the thrill of sharing a flight home with much of the team. Our players are so amazing, thanking the fans for supporting them and traveling so far to be with them. It’s always nice to see the real side of players and get to talk with them about their families and life. Peter Vermes and Kerry Zavagnin, our Cup heroes over the last decade, personally thanked the fans for their commitment and support. As supporters that is the ultimate compliment and further proves to us that the partnership between the club and its fans is stronger than ever.
For those fans out there that have never gotten up the courage to travel to an away game the Cauldron road trips (www.kccauldron.com) are something you should experience. Vermes Army is loud and proud and the Cascadian Cauldron further solidified our position in the upper echelon of MLS fans. Come join us as we support our boys in blue all over North America on our way to cup glory!