Goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, currently plays in Major League Soccer (MLS) for the Chicago Fire and is also a member of the US Men’s National Team. Go on the road with Johnson this year as he gives you a player’s view into each MLS city, as only he can do.
Ever wonder what us soccer players love to do in the cities we live in? Better yet…where we like to eat, where to grab a pint, or some cool things to do to fill in time until kickoff? After two camps, two cities and six weeks, I was inspired to find these answers for myself, and the fans. This year I’ll attempt to unlock the hidden treasures of every MLS city and give fans a complete guide to fully experience these cities in a weekend. So buckle up and let those Continental’s take you with me to experience one massive MLS road trip.
First up, Portland! Not only does the city coin some of the coolest nicknames like “Rose City”, but it’s also one of the most scenic and unique cities in the United States with something to do for everyone! Recognized as one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world, Portland has 10,000+ acres of public parks and plenty of bike trails as well as a phenomenal food scene.
I sat down with, Michael Harrington, who played for the Portland Timbers before joining me at the Chicago Fire this season, for a real insiders take on what made Portland so special to him. And to help you, our fans, plan an unforgettable trip to Timber Land:
SJ: What’s the vibe of Portland?
MH: I would definitely say before I even showed up here, initially a few years ago, you kind of hear stuff from people like, Portland is really weird, the people are weird there. It’s kind of like a hippiesh vibe, so you kind of have that coming in. I would say living here for a couple of years you maybe see some things here that you wouldn’t see in other traditional US cities but I would say the vibe is a relaxed, chill vibe. It’s a place where I feel you can be yourself. You’re not going to be judged here. You can be who you are and express yourself the way you want to which is cool. I really like that part about the city.
SJ: You talk about things you enjoy. What types of things do you enjoy here in the city?
MH: I definitely like my food. I enjoy a nice drink here and there but obviously during the season you have to keep that to a limited basis. But Portland definitely has spots where you can go enjoy a cocktail and Portland has great food. Portland is kind of known for its food. You have food trucks throughout downtown and throughout the city.
SJ: Do you have a favorite food truck?
MH: I would say probably Nong’s Khao Man Gai, it’s a Thai/Asian kind of a spot. They have everything from all over the world, all kinds of different food from different countries and different cultures. It kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier about Portland, it supports whatever kind of culture you want to bring.
SJ: If you had one restaurant I had to tell people about to make them come here, what would it be and why?
MH: It would definitely have to be Mother’s Bistro for the breakfast. I don’t even know if I’ve had the dinner, I’ve heard the dinner is very good as well but for the breakfast really. (My go to breakfast) is the biscuit breakfast which is basically biscuits and gravy on another level. I’m from the south, I grew up in North Carolina, so I know my biscuits and gravy and fried chicken and all that good stuff. These biscuits and gravy are something that need to be tried.
SJ: What makes Providence Park a unique fan experience?
MH: Obviously a great location for it, right down in the city. All that culture and vibe we talked about earlier with Portland, it kind of shows up at the stadium. Portland is a place where everyone walks to the stadium. I believe it was my first home game here and I was staying in an apartment right across from the stadium, I woke up in the morning and was about to get some breakfast, looked out my window and saw 300 – 400 fans who were already congregating around the stadium. (I thought) wow, the game is tonight and there’s already people outside the stadium getting ready for the game. That translates into the environment in the stadium. They sell out. The fans are pretty raucous with their songs and dance that they do.
SJ: If you had to choose one thing to do in Portland, is there a hidden gem in the city that would be a place fans could visit before a game?
MH: I would definitely say if you’re downtown Portland, the Pearl District is a pretty happening spot. There are a variety of restaurants, bars, there are a lot of options. And it’s a five minute walk from the stadium. You could go there, bounce around a bit and walk to the stadium.
SJ: Give me a 10 second sales pitch as to why someone should visit the Rose City:
MH: It’s a place where you can be yourself and enjoy the kind of activities that you like. It’s a place that’s no stranger to a good time and what better way to enjoy than with a drink and a food coma by some of the best food scenes there is!