Despite much wishful thinking since the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup, soccer fans remain marginalized in this country. Soccer rarely receives the attention and accommodation given to the three (or four) hegemonic sports in the U.S. — American football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey (what Andrei Markovits and Steven Hellerman refer to as the “big three and one-half”).
Many soccer fans share stories of struggling to find a bar or other establishment to watch their beloved team — and, if successful, stories of suffering the stigma of watching a “boring” or “wimpy” game. On Sunday, Dec. 6, however, Eugene’s soccer fans were well-accommodated for the MLS Cup Final between the Portland Timbers and the Columbus Crew in Doc’s Pad in downtown Eugene.
As I learned from some of Eugene’s most passionate Timbers fans, such accommodation of their soccer fandom is a fairly recent phenomenon — but one that is extremely appreciated and exceptionally timed. In 2010, a year before the Timbers joined the main U.S. soccer league (Major League Soccer — MLS), soccer fans in Eugene (especially Brendan Birr) formed a local supporters’ group: the Echo Squadron. But, having their own supporters’ group name — along with scarfs and songs — did not assure them a reliable and comfortable place to watch Timbers matches.
Sarah and John Dosch discovered the Echo Squadron shortly after moving to Eugene from the Midwest. Sarah Dosch works at Doc’s Pad and the Green Room, and because the Green Room generally isn’t open during the hours of most soccer matches, she asked her boss to open the Green Room for Timbers matches. “Soccer fans are the best — they drink beer and they’re nice,” she says with a big smile.
Who knows if my impression would’ve differed had the Timbers not just won their first MLS cup, but Sarah Dosch sure seemed to be enjoying her work on a Sunday afternoon. She tells me, more seriously: “Today has been the culmination of years of work supporting this group of soccer fans who are usually given a back seat compared to other sports in bars.”
After two years of matches in the Green Room, they decided to move to the more spacious Doc’s Pad for the MLS Cup Final.
The bar was packed, mostly with fans in Timbers apparel. Many are members of the tight-knit Echo Squad. Some Lane United fans wear red along with their Timbers gear. But not everyone watching the MLS final at Doc’s Pad is a Timbers fan. Sherwin Shamoeil is an L.A. Galaxy fan, but says he’s happy to be watching the MLS final in the Pacific Northwest where there seems to be more vocal soccer fans.
Diego Contreras is a Pumas fan from Mexico City, but he also is impressed with Timbers fans. He’s been in the U.S. one year and he’s already attended six Timbers matches in Providence Park. Despite wearing a gold and blue Pumas jersey, he says: “Not only are Timbers fans amazing but now the team has shown that they, too, are great.”