They are one of the most recognized groups of Thorns fans, as much a symbol of Portland soccer as two stars, or a rose, or the red smoke rising from the North End.
They are the Portland Thorns song leaders—the capos—and we met across the street from Providence Park to talk about them, what they do, how they do it, some of their memories from past seasons, and some thoughts on this one.
JL: Let’s start with introductions; who are you, how long you’ve been on the stand, and how did you get started.
Nash: I’m in the stand between 108 and 109. I’ve been here for four years—I took a year off for health reasons—and I got started when I was watching a match and thinking “Those people aren’t yelling loud enough!”. I asked Sunday “Can I do that?”, she said, “Hell, yeah”, and I jumped in.
Sato: I’m in the birdcage between 105 and 106, and I got started in the very first chant meeting, before the very first kickoff, when everyone was bringing in their ideas for songs and chants. So I went to the home opener and I was trying to get the crowd up above to get involved—that didn’t work out too well—and went to the meeting after that in Lexi and Holly’s basement. We reviewed all the songs and chants and Sunday sat Ford and I down and told us that we could go into the individual stands, and we weren’t ready for that–
JL: I remember, in the first season everybody was down on the main stand…
Sato: –and at the second match we got to pick which nest we wanted to be in, and I picked 105 to 106 and I’ve been there ever since.
Sunday: I’ve been jumping up and down and yelling at people for a long time, for both Thorns and Timbers. I was at the first “Ohmigod we’re going to get a women’s team!” meeting at the Atkinson home in November. There were some lovely…lovely supporter’s group names came up at that event the fortunately did not follow through…
Nash: Red Tide. (general laughter)
Sunday: Oh, yeah. You would have loved that one. It was livecasting, half the people were responding on Twitter, and we broke into sections and figured out who wanted to do merch, who wanted to do different departments, and Patch and I got together and said, “let’s do this thing”. And there was a crowd of people who wanted to do this thing. After a couple of months we had some people who rose up…some people showed up right before the first match, and got going, and it’s just been growing since then.
The goal was to get it to an all-female crew. Not expecting to happen the first year, but it did happen the second year. We did a whole year all-female and then we were like “We met our goal, and we don’t want to limit anyone”.
Lora: I came just to two matches late, I started out with season tickets, there was no way I was going to miss out. We’re down in the front row trying to sing and yell as loud as possible, and [the capos on the main stand] say “Are you interested in doing that?” and I say “Well, sure.”. And then it’s the Pride match, and I’m drinking some wine suffering from a hangover and Sunday walks up and asks “OK! Are you ready?” and I say “Let’s do it!”. And I fell in love and didn’t want to leave.
Alex: I’m the newest capo, and the angriest. I’ve been doing this for two seasons now. I never capo’ed before…
Sunday: You just have a great resting bitch face.
Alex: I’ve done leadership before, but never been up on the stage, like that.
Lora: There’s nothing like that.
Sato: It’s so fun, and so terrifying.
Alex: I was actually in Sunday’s section [as a fan] for the first two seasons. And I’m really loud, and I get mad if people around me aren’t as loud as I am.
Sunday: Which is why he was so noticeable, and so well loved.
Alex: So what happened was that I thought about asking to be a capo, but I was nervous about it. I was worried that a guy might not be welcome up there. But then they put out the call “We’re looking for new capos” and it doesn’t matter, male or female. And I had a bet with my sister, we had to do a thing that made us uncomfortable. I pushed my sister to writing for Prost, and she told me to try out for the capos. I don’t think I’d give it up for anything.
JL: That brings me to my next question; what’s the one moment, the very best part of your time as a capo?
Nash: When we were losing in Seattle 5-nothing and our entire section broke into “Lean on me”…(crosstalk; “No, that was here! It was when Nadine got sent off…I think it was New York…It was the Breakers.”) [ed. It was a 5-nil defeat, to Western New York, in June of 2014] and the hair just literally stood up on my arms through the entire song and I started crying. It was like we weren’t just there, it was like we were on the pitch with them.
Sunday: That wasn’t the biggest crowd, but that was the loudest I’ve ever gotten. The more you beat us down, the louder we get.
Nash: I would never give up that, not for anything. Not for a million dollars.
Sato: That really proved who we are, we’re here for you. That was definitely up there. But the first season, up at Starfire, KK’s (Karina LeBlanc’s) family was there, her mom and dad were there, and we got all our equipment taken away. They took everything away. We could take in the flagpoles, that was it. And there was KK’s mom, Winifred, banging on the stands, she didn’t know any of the words, she didn’t care about the flag, she was the flag. That match was definitely well worth it.
Lora: It’s pretty recent, but being in Florida for the Championship. That was amazing. The team celebrating with us, Tobin [Heath] giving us the trophy, putting it in my hands and walking away. I didn’t know what to do because it was so amazing.
Nash: There’s been some moments where the whole stadium gets involved that are incredible.
JL: I know that we’re supposed to hate Seattle, but I’ve always thought that FCKC was our real “rivalry team.” Do you have an opponent that you think of that way?
Alex: Honestly? The Flash/Carolina.
Sunday: Definitely Carolina, after the  Final.
Nash: It was after the moment that Jess Fishlock scored on us at home the first time and she ran past the Riveters and gestured at the crowd that I started hating her and I haven’t stopped hating her since.
Sunday: I remember that we started shouting “Get that fish off the pitch” and everybody thought we were yelling “…bitch”. We weren’t, but a lot of people thought we were.
JL: So why, unlike a lot of supporters’ groups in other leagues and other teams, don’t we have a whole subset of songs that get after those teams or players we don’t like? Okay, maybe not counting “Build a bonfire…”
Nash: Our focus is holding up our team, our focus is building up our community, our focus is supporting our family. We don’t want to waste our energy with them.
Sunday: So “dodgy keeper” is a tradition, and we keep that…
Lora: And “Go home, you bums”.
Nash: But if I hear people being abusive I won’t participate.
Sunday: I’m sorry, stop saying “F—k Seattle” when we’re playing a completely different damn team.
Sato: I think another part of it is that from the beginning our job was not to tear down other supporters’ groups. Because we’re so big, because we have so much more than they do, I almost feel an obligation to make other supporters welcome, that they can get the support from us they need, to grow the game.
Nash: Until last season I didn’t feel the freedom to hate on any other SGs, because it was like the big kid picking on the little kid. Poor form. But now? Bring those Courage people to me.
Sunday: At the same time, I think our goal is to grow the league. But they can hate us all they want, say we’re the Yankees of the league, or the Patriots.
JL: So can we expect to hear a song this coming season that says “No one likes us. We don’t care”?
Nash: We’re thinking about that.
Sunday: “Nobody likes us, everybody hates us, guess we’ll go score goals.”
JL: Speaking of chants, Hayley Raso has a chant, Mana Shim had a chant…
Several voices: Yes, but she hated it! She hates the attention.
JL: …do we have any other players who should have their own song or chant?
Sato: When we had McDonald she said “I don’t care! You guys like it, go ahead and do it!”
Nash: We need one for Franch.
Sunday: I thought that both Brynjarsdottir and Sonnett deserved one…but how the hell do you get “Brynjarsdottir” into a chant?
JL: A couple of people in 108 did a “Dagny!” with the Iceland overhead clap, but…
Sunday: It’s way too much like Seattle’s “boom/boom/clap.”
Nash: So I think Franch needs one, and “Super Sonnett,” I think that would be good.
Sunday: And it would be fun in our playlist.
Nash: And Horan is the only other one, and I talked to her, and said “Lindsey, your name is far too effed up for a chant,” and she laughed, and she then she said, “Actually, they did have a chant for me, and it was a Tottenham chant,” and I said I will get the song for you and I’ve been looking all over the place. But we’ll get it.
Sunday: Raso has a chant for her, where they call her “Ribbons.”
Alex: I’ve heard a chant, it wasn’t specifically for Raso, but it was to the tune of “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon”, “Around her hair, she wore a red ribbon…”
Several capos: A lot of chants start organically…the crowd comes up with some of the best ones…we don’t always come up with the best chants.
Sunday: The “Urruti” that everybody loved so much? Came from 108. And Oh. My. God. The main crew haaaated it for the longest time. They got mad when people would sing it over the top of whatever they were trying to lead. So when it finally sparked and hit there wasn’t anything they could do about it.
JL: How would you describe your relationship with the club? Do you think the Front Office likes having you? Or do they just kind of tolerate you?
Nash: I think it’s all of the above.
Sunday: I think that for both teams we are a marketing gold mine. They love the aspect of the excitement, the selling of our passion and focus and unity. On the other hand, they’re super frustrated when they can’t control us. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told to temper my language, or not flip somebody off, or change some piece of clothing, or take that scarf off. And I’ve never seen that happen to any of the guys in front of the Timbers Army.
Nash: The match after the Hope Solo match, she was setting up her scarves, and in between the two of us walks up this gentleman who is very important to the team. He looks up at us and says, “Are you going to be good today?”
Nash: And I looked down at him and winked at him. And started laughing.
Sunday: I’ve been on the main stage at the Thorns and been told “This is a family-friendly environment, we advertise family-friendly, you have to be family-friendly,” and this isn’t a “family-friendly” only event/space, it’s professional soccer and comes with power of emotion, fight for your team, loyalty and love, and sometimes those things aren’t “family-friendly.”
Lora: I think there’s been a lot of issues about how we get treated different from Timbers Army capos.
Sato: Nash had someone (several voices: It was the popcorn dude) run down and say, “you can’t stand up there like that!”
Nash: I looked at him and asked, “have you ever been to a Timbers match?” He keeps saying, “you gotta get down!” and I keep saying, “no, I don’t.”
Sunday: I do go up to security at the beginning of the year and talk to the security staff along all of the aisles to make sure that they understand who their capos are. And again on derby days when it is packed.
Nash: I do certainly appreciate and know that the Front Office appreciates us, but also that Lifetime and the NWSL appreciate us.
Sunday: They love us that way that the MLS loves the “flare bear” incident with (the Timbers final 2011 away match against) Salt Lake. They (the flare bears) got in trouble, they (the FO) blocked a bunch of people from attending and cut off a bunch of their travel access, and then MLS put that video on their ads, in their magazine ads, “Oh, this is how exciting we are!” But they didn’t acknowledge that, oh yeah, by the way, the people who did this are banned.
Sunday: We thank the 107ist for walking a fine line and dealing with the diplomatic part of our relationship with the club.
JL: This coming season, as defending champions, what are you looking forward to? Anything special planned?
Sunday: A third star.
JL: How about things you’re not looking forward to? Allie Long coming back here in Seattle colors?
Sunday: If she keeps being offside, I won’t care.
Nash: We have a drinking game called “Allie Long Offside.” We’ve gotten pretty drunk.
Nash: I’m looking forward to seeing the banner unfurl. I’m looking forward to seeing Tobin, healthy, back on the pitch. And looking forward to seeing the confidence that was missing after losing that 2016 semifinal.
Lora: Oh, yeah, I remember Klingenberg was crying when she came up here (to the main stand) after that.
Sato: They were so upset and I said; don’t be, don’t. You played your hearts out.
Sunday: I’m not looking forward to our compacted schedule and having a run of back-to-back doubles in the summer. We get wiped out on double matches, it gets really hard and really hot. One of the “not-so-fond” memories is in the summer we have a “petting zoo” up in the shade in the media well at the top of 107. At halftime we all run up there and just flop/lie down and sweat on the cooler concrete, and then get up and run back down front. People walk by and are like, oh, yeah, there’s the capos.
Nash: I had the flu once and did that.
Lora: I’m not looking forward to feeling like I’m going to throw up because of pre-match nerves.
Alex: I’m actually looking forward to seeing my people again, the crowd. I watch the game through the eyes of the crowd, in the emotions…
Sunday: When ten thousand people all gasp at the same time, you’re like, “what am I missing?” You see the excitement, terror, hope, anguish reflected in their eyes.
Alex: …so my game day is the crowd, and I’m looking forward to seeing them. I am not looking forward to seeing Allie Long in a Seattle kit. Because I’m not looking forward to being the bad guy. Because there are people who are going to want to chant for her, and that’s not cool.
Sunday: Though I would love if she gets an own goal. Because then “she’s always a Thorn…”
JL: Since you’re on Stumptown Footy, you can use the megaphone to ask the fans anything. What would you like from the fans this season? Other than “sing loud”, of course.
Nash: I got one – get off your #@!%$! phone.
Alex: Two things; when fouls happen, Don’t. Stop. Singing. Teams do that, that throws us off our game. That’s their gamesmanship. When they foul us, get louder. And, second, the same goes for “Rose City ‘Til I Die.” It’s not a dirge, it shouldn’t be quiet. It should be defiance, it should be the loudest, not the quietest. A fanbase that never gets quiet, that just gets louder? That means they can’t break us. They can’t break the team.
Sunday: We must use our home field advantage. That means being LOUD and consistent. A wave of energy for our athletes.
Sato: We are that home field advantage.
Nash: Okay, I have a question for my fellow campers; why do you guys do it? Why does each one of you do this?
Sunday: Early entry. I get my seat right away.
Lora: But you’re facing the wrong way!
Nash: You’re not watching the game, so that doesn’t work at all.
Sunday: Yeeeeah, there’s that.
Lora: One of the questions I get asked the most is “Do you get paid for it?” And when I tell them no they’re like “Well, why do you do it?” And I have to tell them, “Because I love it.”
Sunday: Unbridled joy, and emotion, and family.
Lora: I’m gonna do whatever it takes to help.
Sato: I think that, in the league, we’re still getting a lot of new fans, new people, and you’re approachable when you’re in the nest, and I’ve had people come up to me at halftime and ask me what’s going on, and I’ve talked to them.
Sunday: You’re an ambassador.
Sato: And when we’re helpful, whether or not they are our fans, when they go back to their own city, and they take back that passion, and help create their own fanbase.
Nash: The reason I do it every match is for no other reason than some day I want to watch Edie Parsons, Connie Valeri, Mila Nagbe take the pitch and know that I had a hand in growing a game that these girls, who have grown into women, can go on and do it…and it continues on and on.
Alex: I’m passionate about the Thorns, and it bothers me when other people aren’t as passionate, and I was taught to lead by example. And the only place to do that is up on the stage. And why I keep doing it? The adrenaline rush. The crowd goes to the road? There’s nothing like it.
Sunday: The first match I went to as an adult, somewhere partway through the match, I thought, “six months? I’m gonna be down there doing that. I need more space. I need to yell, and I’m going to be excited. And in six months I’m gonna be there.” and my wife replied “I give it a year.”
When we had the opportunity for a women’s team, things like that, that give a semblance of equality that’s never been there for women, LGBTQ, people of color. Having women’s sports shows that we can stand on our own two feet, and that making this game more vibrant and volatile has been a huge drive for me. It’s been huge. I think they’re crazy, stunning athletes and deserve the same respect and the pay that the men get. And we’re doing our part of that great thing here.
JL: Thanks, gang. I’ll see you at the home opener. I promise to keep my phone in my pocket.