Three-thousand people packed the North End of Jeld-Wen Field this morning for one reason: Atticus Lane-Dupre wanted to play.
The eight-year-old learned he had cancer last fall. After missing his team's last soccer match of the season, Atticus hooked up with Make-A-Wish Oregon to put together a pick-up game between his side—The Green Machine—and your Portland Timbers. Word spread, and soon, signs were being painted, chants were being re-written, and for one day, loyalties of supporters considered the most rabid in North America were cut.
I walked west on Morrison at around 11:15 a.m. and saw a view that looked more like a late Saturday afternoon: A line of fans rounded the corner from Timbers Army's usual entrance clear to the east grandstand. Walking into the stadium felt like a typical gameday—music in the air, flags placed at the end of rows, chants randomly rising left and right, people milling about excitedly with colorful banners and signs in hand. Sure, I figured TA would be organized (these, after all, are the same folks who regularly gather on weekends to rebuild fields around town and force the Red Cross to bring in second shifts for blood donations) but clearly they'd prepared to pull out all the stops.
The team, too: "THE GREEN MACHINE" lit up the visitor's side of the scoreboard. The video screen was on, and as the team's familiar public address announcer read off the names of the kids, their pictures flashed amid chants of "GM-FC" (a play on the team's typical pre-game chant of "PT-FC" for "Portland Timbers Football Club." The teams walked out of the tunnel side-by-side and onto the pitch as they do during MLS matches. The national anthem even had a color guard.
It was before noon on a Wednesday, but for the next half-hour or so, it felt like one of those endless summer days when time didn't matter—y'know, like when you were a kid? Timbers Will Johnson, Jack Jewsbury, Darlington Nagbe, Mikael Silvestre, Futty Danso, Jake Gleeson, Ryan Kawulok and Sebastián Rincón took on the Green Machine in shifts of four wearing grins that matched their opponents'. The Green Machine jumped to a 3-0 lead before the game eventually pulled even behind Rincón, who seemed to especially embrace the "faux-villain" role by scoring four goals and egging on the crowd of yes-I-said-3,000 people. On this day, Timbers Army was clearly backing The Green Machine, modifying every chant and mercilessly booing every bit of success the home team enjoyed. At a certain point, Johnson (who traded jerseys with Atticus postgame) received a red card and was shooed off the pitch by Portland coach Caleb Porter.
And with the match tied at nine, the ball somehow found its way to Atticus for last-minute breakaway. He dribbled toward The Green Machine's nemesis—Rincón—while the 6-foot-1, 175-pound pro waved his finger. Atticus shot, and wouldn't you know, the ball went through Rincón's legs and into the net.
Game-winner. Green smoke. Tetris. Is it dusty in here?
More after the jump from a too-heart-swelling-for-snark (so don't even try it, buster!) event, including video highlights and more on Atticus' day.
It's shit like this, Portland...that makes me proud to call you home.
From the Timbers' official recap:
In front of more than 3,000 Portland Timbers faithful—converted for a day to support a special wish made possible by the club, the Timbers Army and Make-A-Wish Oregon—eight-year-old Atticus Lane-Dupre netted four goals, including the game-winner in the waning moments of the match, to power The Green Machine to a 10-9 victory over the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field Wednesday afternoon.
The Timbers teamed up with Make-A-Wish Oregon to grant the wish to Atticus, who learned he had cancer last fall and missed his last soccer game of the season with his teammates on The Green Machine. When Atticus had the chance to make a wish, he chose to scrimmage the Timbers at JELD-WEN Field, home of the Timbers. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Atticus was outfitted with his own locker next to Timbers captain Will Johnson, while he and his family were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Timbers locker room and workout facilities. Additionally, head coach Caleb Porter introduced Atticus to the team before the Timbers pre-training meeting. Team captains Will Johnson and Atticus exchanged jerseys after the game.
“Trading jerseys is a fun thing in the game," Johnson said. "I’ve actually never asked anyone to trade jerseys, so that was probably the first and only time in my career I’ll ask for somebody’s jersey. I’m glad it’s that way because he’s a special kid and I’m quite proud to own his jersey.”
Keeping with tradition, Timber Joey rewarded Atticus with a slice off the victory log for his four-goal performance and victory.
Why did Atticus choose to play the Timbers for his wish, and include his teammates?
“Because usually kids just choose to go to Disneyland with their family or getting something," he said, "and I chose something that lots of people could do.”
Said coach Caleb Porter: “It really puts things in perspective. We’re trying to win games and we have goals here as an organization. There’s nothing more meaningful and valuable than to touch a young kid’s heart and to make his wish come true today. To play a part in that is absolutely incredible. It’s something that brings our community closer, brings our organization closer, and brings our team closer. When we brought Atticus into the video [session] before training today and I introduced him to the team and talked about what he was going to be doing today, it was hard not to get choked up, it was very touching. He’s a good kid, a special kid, and we’re just happy to be a part of it.”