As soccer fans across the state are overcome with joy to report, Oregon’s resident professional team, the Portland Timbers, is preparing for its Major League Soccer debut on March 19. After a decade spent playing on the second tier of the American professional soccer pyramid, Portland is moving up to the Big League, and much must be done before the first kickoff. PGE Park is getting a facelift. Newly drafted players are tuning up for the season, dressed in revamped jerseys of fir-forest green and Rose City red. The Timbers Army, which may have attended the same training academy for fan raucousness as the UO’s Pit Crew, is stockpiling confetti. The team mascot is revving up his chainsaw. And a familiar voice is preparing to take his place in the press box.
Andy McNamara, whose duties as the assistant director of media services for UO Intercollegiate Athletics include spending the fall and winter blogging about Ducks football, has served for the past decade as the voice of the Timbers at PGE Park. This means he’ll be spending much of this spring and summer calling the play-by-play for that other kind of football.
McNamara grew up far from both Oregon and soccer, playing baseball and basketball in the Northeast and listening to legendary sportscaster Fred Cusick calling “Score!” during Boston Bruins hockey games. After majoring in broadcast journalism at the University of Maine, he made his way west, where he took a job announcing for the Portland Pride, an indoor soccer team. McNamara felt an instant affinity with the sport, which was, “like hockey with a ball.” When the Pride folded, it was, McNamara says, just a natural progression that led him to the Timbers’ announcer’s chair. That was 2001, and he’s stayed there ever since, yelling “Score!” at each goal in homage to Cusick and those back-east roots.
The voice of the Timbers expects that the club’s inaugural MLS season will draw both soccer diehards and curious newcomers. And while the sport’s subtle complexities may take a while to fully appreciate (“it took a good three or four years before the light bulb truly went on for me,” McNamara says), the electric atmosphere of the games, combined with the bliss of a warm Oregon summer evening, will surely make PGE Park one of the best places outside Autzen or Matt Arena to be a fan.
—By Mindy Moreland MS ’08