As the final whistle blew in the Portland Timbers' 1-0 playoff loss to Real Salt Lake last night, the Timbers faithful should have been crushed. It was a disappointing performance on offer as the Timbers' failed to overcome RSL for the sixth time this year.
Somehow, however, they were not.
After RSL scored in the 29', Jeld-Wen Field was more quiet that it had been since the preseason. As the match moved into the four minutes of stoppage time allotted by referee Mark Geiger, however, the fans throughout the stadium, not just those in the North End, stepped up the volume.
The chant started quiet but quickly grew to thunderous proportions.
Jeld-Wen Field had been home to louder moments; Andrew Jean-Baptiste's goal against the LA Galaxy and Will Johnson's penalty kick against the Seattle Sounders may be the loudest single moments in Jeld-Wen history. This, however, was not the wordless roar of the crowd. This was 20,000 people speaking as one.
When time finally ran out, RSL began to celebrate their second appearance in the MLS Cup Final since joining the league and the Timbers came together to do their customary lap of the field. As the team walked around the pitch, hardly a seat had emptied out and the North End remained packed full of fans, standing shoulder to shoulder.
The end of the match was disappointing and heartbreaking but also unifying and cathartic. After the game, countless Timbers fans had tears in their eyes but smiles on their faces.
It did not matter that the Timbers had lost, only that they had stood together, 20,000 strong, as the season came to a close.
In the locker room after the game, Michael Harrington gave voice to how the unity in the stands affected the players.
It makes you proud to be a part of something like that... It is just fantastic to be supported in that way. That's rare, I think. Even all over the world that is rare... Definitely we are disappointed, but that is a light in the darkness.