- Michael Orr
- Jan. 29, 2012
The nine other players to ever wear the no. 6 shirt for the Portland Timbers, scored only twelve total goals. In fact, none of the players scored more than the three Brian Godfrey managed in 1975. John Bain, easily the Timbers’ most famous no. 6, scored 45 goals, just in his five NASL seasons. Not only that, Bain recorded 55 assists as an NASL Timber, narrowly beating out Willie Anderson as the club’s all-time leader. And on top of all of that, Bain was the first Timbers player to later coach the team.
Backing up to his arrival in 1978, Bain was a fringe player at Bristol City. His father, a scout at Bristol Rovers, knew Rovers manager Don Megson, who became Timbers manager in that 1978 season. City sent Bain, then just 20-years old, as well as teammate Brian McNeill, to the Timbers to play under Megson. McNeill did score once in his single season at the Timbers but he moved back to England at season’s end. Bain remained.
Six goals and three assists highlighted the youngster’s NASL debut as the Timbers reached the NASL semifinal before crashing out at the hands of the New York Cosmos. In his second season, Bain increased his scoring total to eight while leading the team in assists (along with Anderson) with eleven. The Timbers struggled in ’79 but Bain was a significant contributor, appearing in 29 of the team’s 30 games (sixteen of the club’s seventeen players went on strike on April 14, including Bain).
In his third season with the club, a season in which Megson was sacked mid-way through the year, Bain was the only Timbers player to appear in all 32 matches, scoring seven goals and recording fourteen assists, leading the team. Come winter, Bain was part of the inaugural indoor Timbers, finishing second on the team in scoring with twenty goals and second in assists with seventeen. He reached double figures in scoring for the first time in 1981 with eleven goals while adding a team-high twelve assists, leading the Timbers to their final playoff appearance of the NASL era.
Though he scored just eight goals in the final Timbers indoor season of 1981/82, Bain assisted 21 times, by far the most in the team. He closed out the Timbers’ NASL era with twelve goals, his career high, and a team-high eleven assists in the 1982 season.
Following his time with the NASL Timbers, Bain spent two more years in the league, playing for both Seattle Sounders and Minnesota Strikers before the folding of the rest of the clubs. He then played in the MISL with some of the most famous clubs, including Kansas City Comets, St. Louis Steamers and Tacoma Stars.
It was during his time with the Stars in 1989 that Art Dixon, a long-time Timbers fan and co-founder of FC Portland, contacted Bain about returning to Portland. Dixon had taken back control of FC Portland and created a professional team from its ranks, purchasing the name and logo of the Portland Timbers. Dixon hoped Bain would play and coach the team. The 31-year old midfielder obliged, leading the Timbers to the playoffs in their first season in the Western Soccer League in 1989. Bain was named 1st team All-League, along with Scott Benedetti and Kasey Keller, though the Timbers could not manage to defeat San Diego Nomads in the playoffs after an 11-5 season.
Bain returned as player/coach in 1990, though his Timbers did not fare as well, finishing 10-10 and missing the playoffs. Dixon folded the team after the club’s first year in the new American Professional Soccer League, leaving a void of eleven years until the next Timbers appeared in 2001.
His contributions to the Timbers club are many. No one has played in more games, scored more goals or provided more assists in 21 seasons of Portland Timbers soccer. He joined Clive Charles and Timber Jim in his 2011 induction to the Timbers Ring of Honor, alongside Jimmy Conway. While the Timbers have only ever chosen to retire one number, Charles’ no. 3, Bain’s no. 6 would surely be the next to join.