When the Portland Timbers entered MLS in 2011 there was a lot of genuine worry from the league and the respective teams' involved with regards to fan hooliganism. It was one of the reasons why the FOs of the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps were initially reluctant to open up more than a hundred or so seats to visiting fans. As we all know, it's been 2 years now and any incidents involved have been relatively minor between the three clubs. Unfortunately, yesterday San Jose's supporters group decided they needed to show everybody how it was "done."
According to a report on KGW, a Timbers' fan was assaulted in his car as he was heading to the game after a small amount of yelling back and forth. You know, the typical stuff we do to each other. I don't know what he said, but apparently it was enough to whip the Earthquakes fans into a fury to the point where they cracked his windshield and punched him in the face.
I don't know what was said, I don't know who instigated the assault. I don't have all the facts. What we do know, however, is that this did occur and the "Ultras" as they like to call themselves, went way over line. There's no good reason to assault another fan no matter what was said.
But beyond the unfortunate circumstance between this Timbers fan and a bunch of San Jose fans, what happened is bad for all of us. Soccer has a lot going against it in this country. One of those things is the perceived notion of hooliganism. It's a battle that the Timbers Army have fought. It's a battle that supporters groups the world over have had to fight for a long time now. Our passion does not have to equal violence.
We're at the place right now, at least in Portland, where going to a Timbers game as a member of the Timbers Army is not an intimidating experience. Most people are jovial, singing, dancing, what-have-you. Mostly it's very positive, but it doesn't take much to get people to compare us to hooligans once again and that's not something I think the league can afford as they try to rebrand themselves as a young adult sports entertainment experience. For hooliganism to ruin that would cost them a lot of the market that is deemed most important by advertisers (18-24). A very important revenue source for MLS today and in the future.
I hope that the San Jose front office can do more to tone down these fans. At the very least, I would like to see San Jose fans' not be given the courtesy of traveling to Portland should they continue to act like this. It's unacceptable and no Portlander (or San Josean) should have to feel unsafe attending a sporting event.
If you are heading down to San Jose next weekend, I urge you to be careful and not fan the flames. We're better than this and we can prove it.
UPDATE: The 1906 Ultras SG has responded.
The 1906 Ultras pride ourselves on an intense devotion to the San Jose Earthquakes and supporting our Boys in Black and Blue. However, we do not condone violence or criminal conduct.
We are troubled by some of the things we witnessed and have heard about before and after the Quakes-Timbers match at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland on Sunday evening. We are in the process of investigating what transpired, and if and to the extent any Ultras members were involved, they will be removed from the group.
Additionally, if and to the extent any innocent victim(s) were actually damaged by improper action(s) of Ultras members, the 1906 Ultras intend to see that such innocent victim(s) are fully compensated, either directly by the individuals involved, or, failing that, indirectly by the 1906 Ultras as an organization.
The 1906 Ultras leadership will fully cooperate with any police investigations and will seek to ensure that events like those that transpired yesterday do not occur again.
The 1906 Ultras Leadership
What do you think of the reports of San Jose's fans? How should the league react, if at all?