- Dec. 26, 2011
Stuart Lee joined the Portland Timbers as a 27-year old in the much-ballyhooed winter of 1979/80. When the club changed ownership from its founding group, Oregon Soccer, Inc., to timber giants Louisiana Pacific, a cash infusion allowed the Timbers to chase big name players from around the world. Lee was added as one of six new signings.
The biggest names of that signing class were Robbie Rensenbrink, the Dutch World Cup star, Willie Donachie, a legend at Manchester City and a starter in two of Scotland’s three matches at the 1978 World Cup, and John Pratt, a veteran of over 300 matches at Tottenham Hotspur. While a star in his own right at Bolton Wanderers and Wrexham, Lee arrived under the radar, along with Bernie Fagan and Glenn Myernick, as new members of the team.
Yet as Rensenbrink faltered and the Timbers endured a difficult season, even changing managers mid-way through the year, Lee excelled as a Portland forward. Though he played in just twenty-three of the club’s thirty-two games in 1980, Lee scored eight goals, good for third on the team, and added five assists. He scored match-winners in consecutive matches against Edmonton Drillers and San Jose Earthquakes in May and twice recorded braces in July, the first in a shoot-out victory over Dallas Tornado and the second in a 2-1 home win against Toronto Blizzard.
Where Lee really made his mark was with the indoor version of the Timbers. Always a solid outdoor player, Lee became a star in Memorial Coliseum. Starting all eighteen games for the inaugural indoor side, Lee scored twenty-seven goals, best on the team, and recorded fourteen assists.
When the Timbers returned to Civic Stadium in 1981, Lee scored six more goals and tallied seven assists in helping the Timbers reach the playoffs for the final time in the NASL era. He scored the team’s first goal of the season, in a win against California Surf, and got the match-winner against Washington Diplomats in July.
In the Timbers’ second and final indoor season of 1981/82, Lee was again a vital part of the team, scoring fifteen goals and recording fourteen assists. Yet the Timbers struggled through a poor ‘81/’82 season and lurched toward the club’s final outdoor season.
Before moving to indoor for most of the rest of his career, Lee helped the Timbers close out their NASL existence scoring once more in a 5-0 rout of Tampa Bay Rowdies in August 1982, as well as adding two more assists over the course of the year.
Though he played in an era after the initial success of 1975 and before the modern reemergence, Lee is a vital figure in the history of the Timbers. He signed from Manchester City of the First Division and helped give Portland three more years of NASL soccer.