It’s 45 minutes before kickoff, and the chants have already started. One half of the crowd shouts in unison “You can’t stop us!” Before their chant can echo off the steel and concrete, the other half replies “We are the Rose City!”
This is the home of Portland Timbers F.C. On match day, the Timbers Army leads the chants, waves flags and beats drums. If you look a bit closer, you’ll probably find Atticus in the crowd. The Timbers are his favorite Major League Soccer team. There’s only one soccer team he likes better … his own team, The Green Machine.
Growing Up Together
Great teams grow up together. Many of the F.C. Barcelona stars spent their early years together at La Masia, the club’s academy for nurturing soccer prodigies. The players do more than learn skills and strategy. They bond. They become friends. They stand up for each other, on and off the pitch.
The Green Machine and its players are no different. They’re a family.
When Atticus was diagnosed with cancer, his teammates stood by him. Missing the last game of the season for treatments and surgery was a huge blow.
The Green Machine made it better. Their support helped him with the chemotherapy that came after the surgery to remove his kidney.
Thanks, Green Machine
As Atticus struggled to overcome his medical woes, Make-A-Wish paid him a visit. They gave him a chance to wish for anything – to meet anyone, go anywhere, have anything, be anyone.
Atticus knew one thing from the beginning: His wish would involve every member of The Green Machine.
A burst of inspiration brought the answer. Atticus wished to put The Green Machine to the ultimate test … a match against the Portland Timbers.
Winning the Crowd
Let’s be clear on this: The Timbers Army never switches allegiances. No matter how tough times might get for the Timbers, they will never cheer for the Seattle Sounders or the Vancouver Whitecaps.
But they turned against the Timbers for The Green Machine. They wore commemorative scarves made just for the match and held up signs with the names of The Green Machine lineup.
The Timbers themselves? Outwardly, they were dismayed that the crowd of 3,000 people at Providence Park turned against them. But inside … well, they were rooting for The Green Machine, too.
Coach Caleb Porter even switched sides, organizing The Green Machine into a side designed to attack. The Timbers also came out eager to score goals – by the final whistle, it was 10-9 for the Green Machine.
Atticus scored the match winner from a corner kick.
All to Play for in the Future
Timbers midfielder Will Johnson isn’t one for swapping shirts after a match. It’s a high honor common in leagues around the world once the full-time whistle blows. Many soccer legends have rooms full of shirts they’ve received from the game’s greats. But it’s just not Johnson’s style.
Johnson made an exception for Atticus; he even squeezed into the way-too-small shirt Atticus handed him.
"It's the first and only time in my career I'll ask for somebody's jersey," Johnson told reporters.
We can only guess that being part of a wish changed Johnson that day. But he and the crowd and the entire Timbers F.C. family were part of a bigger change. They made it possible for Atticus to call full-time on cancer. They gave him a chance to thank his teammates in a way they’ll always remember.
They made it possible for Atticus to reunite with his soccer family, and helped them all believe in each other more than ever.