A recent Sunday morning in Portland, Oregon. Early. A brief gargling with Scope does little to wash out the heavy taste of Saturday night’s Rogue Ales and Jamesons. The streets are as deserted as those in The Walking Dead and the sun is only a dull hint in the sky. By all rights I should still be snug in my hotel bed, but with Manchester United-Liverpool, Arsenal-Manchester City, and a sidecar of Tottenham-QPR, a proper pub is the only place to be.
The brisk dawn walk to the bar is a ritual enjoyed by an ever-growing legion in America each weekend. I was lucky enough to find myself in Soccer City, USA on this particular Sunday, a city home to a host of great soccer bars filled with fans of the domestic and international game alike. I spent part of a recent Saturday night at one such bar, the Bitter End. It’s a block up from Jeld-Wen Field which played host to the Portland State Vikings and about 14,000 fewer fans than a Timbers match. On that Sunday morning, seeking the shortest distance between my bed and a bar, I found myself at the 4-4-2.
It’s a cozy spot adorned with shirts and scarves from all over the world from mighty Millwall to the ebullient Estudiantes. Spurs supporters came out in full force. Reds and Red Devils came in equal numbers. Timbers Army gear was prevalent, highlighted by a ‘Suck Feattle’ shirt. Having had a gruyere burger to go with my nightcap(s) at the Doug Fir only a few hours before, my sensitive stomach could handle nothing beyond toast but the breakfast I spied others enjoying looked good. Had my state been more solid I would have happily tried some of the more exotic fare like the Bosnian sujuk, a type of heavily cured beef. I was one of many who could stand to sip nothing stronger than tea or coffee but a few hardy souls slugged back morning cocktails, some sprinkled with Emergen-C and others, like the Bloody Mary, spiked with spicy Siraccha.
Trek to Portland and you’ll truly feel like you’ve arrived somewhere different. The climate, the independent spirit, the greenery, the grittiness, the unceasing cavalcade of bicycles, the remoteness, and the absence of anonymous chains; it’s a town like no other in the country.
But when you go to the 4-4-2, or to any other of Portland’s passionate soccer pubs to be a part of the international phenomenon that is the Premier League made real, is to feel completely and instantly at home.