After three years, the Portland Timbers are adding to the Ring of Honor at Providence Park. The fifth member of the club's exclusive list of honorees will be Mick Hoban, who played in Portland from 1975-78. Hoban was the first player signed by Vic Crowe and a starter on the inaugural team that reached Soccer Bowl '75. At halftime of the 2014 season opener against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night, Hoban's name will permanently join the company of some of the most respected and important figures in the club's thirty-nine year history.
Prior to Hoban's induction, the Timbers have honored three players, each of whom debuted in the successful 1978 season. Clive Charles was the first to be so recognized in a posthumous ceremony in 2003 while John Bain and Jimmy Conway were introduced at halftime of Portland's first MLS home game in 2011. Charles' no. 3 remains the only number the Timbers have ever retired. Off the field, Timber Jim Serrill had his name lifted into the rafters in 2008 when he retired as the club's official unofficial mascot.
Hoban signed a senior contract at Aston Villa in 1970 under manager Vic Crowe. Though he featured in several friendlies, including high profile encounters with Pele's Santos and Bayern Munich, Hoban could never quite crack the first team at Villa Park. A loan spell with the Atlanta Chiefs of the NASL in 1971 introduced the then 19-year-old to soccer in the United States. Three years in Atlanta were followed by a single season with the Denver Dynamos before Crowe was hired in Portland and Hoban was signed as the very first Timbers player.
A regular starter in each of the Timbers' first three seasons, Hoban chose to retire early in the 1978 season when he was offered the opportunity to join the local shoe and athletics wear company Nike, Inc. As its first soccer-specific employee, Hoban arranged for the Timbers to be the first soccer club in the world to wear Nike kits in 1979 and later outfitted his old club Aston Villa in Nike for its 1982 European Cup triumph. A career in the soccer industry followed including an influential role at Umbro, USA and later worked as an independent consultant. Today, Hoban's son Liam works with adidas and presented the new secondary and third kits for the Timbers at the unveiling on Monday night.
Like Bain, Charles and Conway, Hoban will be honored not just as an important player from a noteworthy period in the club's history but as an ambassador for the game in Portland. Though the name Soccer City, USA was coined in 1975, the greater meaning has been carried out over the ensuing years, but first by those directly affiliated with the Timbers. While there are many players who appeared in a Timbers kit more times, scored more goals and saved more shots, the club would not be where it is today without players and ambassadors like Mick Hoban.