- Jan. 23, 2012
As the Portland Timbers’ fourth all-time leading scorer and placing fifth in club history in assists, Dale Mitchell’s no. 7 is a straight-forward selection for recognition. Though he did wear no. 18 in his first season of 1979, Mitchell changed to no. 7 with the departure of Stewart Scullion and filled the record books until the club folded in 1982.
Mitchell came to the Timbers at age 21 after two seasons at Vancouver Whitecaps. Having played in just five matches in Vancouver, Portland was a fresh start for the young striker. Working his way into the rotation, Mitchell managed five goals over just twelve games in the Timbers’ brand new Nike kits in ’79. Once Scullion left ahead of the 1980 season, Mitchell was assured of a starting position on the forward line alongside Clyde Best.
In 1980, Mitchell was a force for the Timbers, scoring nine times in his twenty-eight games, and just as importantly, added nine assists for the 15-17 Timbers. Though it was a disappointing start to the Louisiana Pacific ownership era, Mitchell’s second season set the stage for an explosion of goals with both the outdoor and indoor versions of the Timbers.
Just three weeks after the 1980 season ended for Portland, Mitchell won his first cap for Canada. The 22-year old made it a memorable debut, scoring twice in 4-0 rout of New Zealand in a friendly in Vancouver. He scored again for Canada on November 11 in a 1-0 defeat of Guatemala in Guatemala City.
November 13, 1980 saw a two-year indoor run begin for Portland and Mitchell was one of the players who took most advantage of the new league. His sixteen goals were third best in 1980/81 and his nineteen assists lead Portland to 11-7 season and a playoff berth. Eleven goals followed in the 1981 outdoor season, including seven in the team’s first nine games. Portland reached the playoffs for the final time in 1981 on the strength of a five-game winning streak to close the season. Mitchell scored against Dallas Tornado on August 8 to bring the Timbers back to a winning record.
The 1981/82 indoor season was Mitchell’s best in Portland as he poured in a team high twenty-three goals and added seven assists while playing in every one of the Timbers’ eighteen games. Though the team struggled to a 7-11 season, Mitchell was Portland’s key player, providing a potent front line alongside Stuart Lee.
Before returning to indoor soccer for most of the rest of his career, Mitchell added ten more goals and eleven assists to the Timbers’ final outdoor season of 1982. Nine of his ten goals came in victories, including scoring both goals in Portland’s 2-0 away defeat of the San Jose Earthquakes on July 10. His final Timbers goal came in a 5-0 destruction of the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Civic Stadium on August 8.
After spending the 1983 NASL season with Montreal Manic, Mitchell turned exclusively to indoor soccer, playing the next ten years with Tacoma Stars, Kansas City Comets, Vancouver 86ers and Baltimore Blast. Scoring 406 times and providing 280 assists, Mitchell is the fourth all-time in points in Major Indoor Soccer League history. Managing has not escaped Mitchell either, as he was at the helm first of the Vancouver Whitecaps for two seasons before spending five years as Canada’s U20 manager. Finally, from 2007-2009, Mitchell was the head coach of his country.
Though he was a player cursed by the timing of his rise to prominence in outdoor soccer, there is no question that Dale Mitchell is one of the finest to ever play for the Portland Timbers. Top players have worn the no. 7 shirt over the years, including Scullion and third all-time leader in assists Hugo Alcarez-Cuellar. Yet it is Mitchell whose name is most familiar, both just above that no. 7 and in the record books.