Monday, June 6, 2011

Behind the scenes, Portland Timbers build bridges with Latino fans

Warm tamales await buyers as thousands of Portland Timbers fans stroll the concourse at Jeld-Wen Field before a recent game against DC United. An announcement echoes recognizing Colombian-born midfielder Diego Chara as one of Major League Soccer's outstanding Latino players. Newly minted, hand-held signs for sale in the team store declare devotion in two languages: "We are Timbers" / "Somos Timbers."
Jorge Vega and his girlfriend, Miriam Torres, step onto Jeld-Wen's club level to watch their third game of this inaugural MLS season -- two of just a smattering of nonwhite faces in the crowd.

The Timbers are the latest team to address a question that has vexed MLS throughout its 16-year history: how to attract a Latino community already in love with soccer, but with established habits and allegiances that often don't include U.S. teams.

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