ATLANTA — A record-breaking night for Atlanta United in the MLS Cup against the Portland Timbers required a first-class tifo.
Vera Zeigler wanted to make sure Resurgence, one of Atlanta United’s four officially-recognized supporters’ groups, delivered for a sold-out crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Zeigler, dubbed the “Tifo Queen of Resurgence,” oversaw the creation of a supporters’ section tifo ahead of the final. The tifo featured a steam engine with Atlanta United’s crest with “MLS 3.0” written on the front. To the sides of the train were “We Won’t Stop” and “We Want More.”
“The tifo tonight is my work, my love, my passion,” she said before it was unveiled. “That’s what’s going up tonight.
“It’s a collaborative effort. We’ve been talking and figuring out ideas for this for three weeks going into this moment. I collaborated and took all of those ideas and visions and put it into one cohesive execution that you’ll see tonight. It’s so many hearts and hands that go behind it. I’ve been entrusted to actualize the vision and make sure those ideas come to realization.”
Zeigler, 33, has lived in Atlanta since she was six months old.
“You know what?” she said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of. Expectations are one thing but there’s always been this vibe here. I can’t say I was expecting it, but I’m not surprised in a certain sense.
“Atlanta’s always got passion. We’ve always had passion. Whenever we have something we can really believe in and get behind, we’re going to take it to another level.”
The passion was on full display.
“I’ve cried multiple times every day,” said 27-year-old Resurgence member Andrea Morris. “We’re so hyped. The atmosphere is wonderful. Welcome to the Portland fans – they’re such a great away traveling contingent.
“There’s about to be 73,000 people. … A cauldron of [expletive] noise for 90 [expletive] minutes. This flag will not go down, these drums will not stop beating. We’re about to bring this city a championship.”
The Timbers supporters wanted to make sure their voices were heard, too.
The majority of Portland fans who came to Atlanta were in the 300 level in a corner of the stadium and were proudly waving flags before the match got started.
Portland supporters’ group Timbers Army tweeted before the match they were only allowed to bring one drum into the stadium, but later added they were permitted a second drum after team owner Merritt Paulson got involved. They did bring a piece of Portland with them to their tailgate at the Yellow Lot outside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Portland’s Victory Log was moved across the country from Providence Park to Atlanta, where it stayed for the tailgate. Typically, a slab of the log is cut off with a chainsaw when a member of the Timbers scores a goal.
Instead, Joey “Timber Joey” Webber cut off a piece before the game. He said it was a reference to when the Timbers won the 2015 MLS Cup over Columbus Crew SC.
“When I went to bed last night, I said, ‘You know, we’ve got to cut one before the game today. We have to cut one before the championship,’” Webber said. “That log will go back to Portland with us. That [slab] will hopefully be the same special piece and piece of pride that we have with the one from Columbus.”
Bob Kellett, a longtime Timbers season ticket holder who made the trip to Atlanta, watched years ago when the Timbers play the Atlanta Silverbacks in the USL.
“Atlanta was playing at a local college,” he said. “They had a college stadium. There was probably about 500 people in the crowd. There were five of us Timbers fans and we were louder than the 500 people combined.
“It’s great to see not only Portland grow since that time, but the city of Atlanta has obviously embraced the sport since then.”