Ajax has arrived in Portland. After a five hour flight from Washington Dulles Airport, they arrived in Portland at 8p.m. local time (which is nine hours earlier than the Netherlands), kicking off the second leg of their USA training camp. Ajax arrived at Portland International Airport. One day after their practice match against DC United (1-2), Ajax prepares for a new friendly match in Portland.
United Airlines flight UA 251 experienced quite some turbulence. The players were shaken up frequently in the A320 plane, high in US airspace. Whoever was sleeping was soon awake.
The training week will end on Wednesday with a match against the Portland Timbers. The players will fly home on Thursday, closing a turbulent, but fantastic 2010-2011 football season. This season’s biggest success was literally visible on the Ajax jerseys for the first time on Sunday. The players wore an original match jersey with three stars for the first time (thirty national titles, a Dutch record) during their match against the American record holder (4 Major Soccer League titles). Leading up to the second friendly match, Ajax has a clinic and a practice on the agenda for Tuesday. Just as they did in Washington, a few players and coaches will run an exclusive clinic, this time at head sponsor adidas’ headquarters.
The team from Amsterdam can expect a warm welcome for the Timbers match. In the North West of the U.S., soccer is bigger than anywhere else in the country. The most fervent football fans come from Portland and Seattle, according to lead magazine Sports Illustrated. Matches there have the intensity of meetings between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Ajax and Feyenoord. But on an American scale. Football is, after basketball, American football and baseball, the fourth most popular sport on this sports crazy continent.
The MLS was founded in 1996. But the Portland Timbers were active under the same name before that, in the North American Soccer League. The MLS’ predecessor folded in the mid- eighties. The renovated home of the Portland Timbers, Jeld-Wen Field, has a capacity of 18.627, and is sold out for Wednesday’s practice match. The most fervent fans make up the Timbers Army. The ‘VAK410’of the F-side equivalent for the Portland club consists of 3.600 fans.
“I don’t think that there’s a better football atmosphere anywhere else in the U.S.”, says the Timbers’ Scottish coach, John Spencer in Sports Illustrated magazine, praising the atmosphere in the stadium during home matches. The same article notes an interesting Timbers tradition. After every goal scored by the Timbers on Jeld-Wen Field, mascot Timber Joey comes into action. To the crowd’s great joy, the mascot saws a chunk from a tree truck with a chainsaw. Clearly, sports and entertainment are closely linked in the U.S.
Follow Ajax in the USA on Ajax TV and via Ajax – twitter@Official_Ajax.