Timbers and Thorns Will Play Together April 27 for Ukraine Fundraiser
In a dream scenario for many soccer fans, members of the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns will take the pitch together on Wednesday, April 27, for a 60-minute exhibition game called PTFC for Peace, a fundraiser for UNICEF relief programs in Ukraine and bordering counties. Admission is free but tickets (reservable through SeatGeek) are required, and fans are encouraged to make a donation when buying a ticket or at any other time. The soccer club will match donations up to $100,000.
The game is not Thorns vs. Timbers, but members of both teams fill two rosters, chosen playground style in a "draft" on Thursday, April 21, which was live-streamed on the teams’ websites and YouTube. The blue Adidas team will be captained by Thorns defender Kelli Hubly and Timbers midfielder Diego Chara, who, during the April 16 game in Houston, became the all-time MLS leader in fouls committed. The cocaptains of the yellow Nike team are Timbers midfielder Sebastián Blanco and Thorns forward Christine Sinclair, who owns the world record for the most international goals scored. Blanco lived in Ukraine earlier in his career and played for FC Metalist Kharkiv; he’s brought his old Бланко jersey to Providence Park this season.
Chosen first in the "draft" by Hubly and Chara was Sophia Smith, who scored a hat trick for the US against Uzbekistan earlier this month, and who was also the no. 1 draft pick when she entered the National Women's Soccer League in 2020. (Smith may be unavailable, though: she is not suiting up for the Thorns' April 24 game against Angel City per COVID protocol.) FC Defenders Larrys Mabiala and Emily Menges were next two picks. Also on the blue team are goalkeepers Aljaz Ivacic, Abby Smith, and Justin Vom Steeg; defenders Pablo Bonilla, Natalia Kuikka, Meaghan Nally (also out April 24 due to COVID protocol), Gabby Provenzano, Justin Rasmussen, and Dario Zuparic; midfielders Dairon Asprilla, Natalie Beckman, Marissa Everett, Marvin Loría, Cristhian Paredes, Yazmeen Ryan, and Hina Sugita (also out April 24 due to COVID protocol); and forwards Hannah Betfort, Blake Bodily, Felipe Mora, and Jaroslaw Niezgoda.
Blanco and Sinclair claimed midfielder Rocky Rodríguez, fresh off a hat trick of her own this month with the Costa Rica national team. They picked their rival's brother Yimmi Charra next, followed by pregame hype machine Meghan Klingenberg. Also on their team are goalkeepers David Bingham, Bella Bixby, Shelby Hogan, and Hunter Sulte; defenders Claudio Bravo, Zac McGraw, Madison Pogarch, Becky Sauerbrunn, Bill Tuiloma, and Josecarlos Van Rankin; midfielders David Ayala, Sam Coffey and Taylor Porter (both also out April 24 due to COVID protocol), George Fochive, Olivia Moultrie, Santiago Moreno, and Eryk Williamson; and forwards Diego Gutierrez, Tega Ikoba, Morgan Weaver, and the newest Thorn, Canada's Janine Beckie, fresh from Manchester City.
PTFC for Peace is far from the only Ukraine aid campaign in the soccer world: In March, MLS announced a partnership with UNICEF USA and Red Cross Canada, and this month the minor-league Forward Madison donned blue and yellow kits for their home opener and raised nearly $6,000 auctioning them off afterward. But the feel-good event is surely a welcome distraction for an organization that has alienated many of its core fans, from North End drummers to anthem singers, through its handling of allegations of a coach’s sexual coercion and allegations of a player’s domestic violence, among numerous other issues.
Fans should not expect a knock-down, drag-out fight between the blue and yellow teams. The Thorns host Kansas City on Saturday afternoon, April 30, in their 2022 regular-season opener, and they’re in the running for a playoff spot in the overlapping Challenge Cup. The Timbers play in Denver the same night, so both teams are keeping an eye on rest and minimizing injury risk.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with the team rosters for the event and COVID protocol as of April 23.