Timbers’ Chara readies for rival Sounders boasting MLS record for regular-season games with a club

Diego Chara’s legacy in Major League Soccer isn’t just the fouls that he’s so frequently called for. It’s his longevity.

And that smile.

Chara and the Portland Timbers will host longtime Cascadia Cup rival Seattle on Sunday. It will be the 38-year-old Colombian midfielder’s 33rd career regular-season league match against the Sounders.

“Loyal is a great word to describe me,” he said. “Playing this many years for the Timbers, I think it has been fantastic. We have great fans. The support from them, that means a lot for me.”

Chara set the MLS record for regular-season appearances with a single club two weeks ago when he started against LAFC. It was his 377th match with the Timbers, surpassing Chris Wondolowski’s record of 376, set with the San Jose Earthquakes.

He also was handled a pair of yellow cars in the match and was sent off, which meant he didn’t play last weekend when the Timbers fell 2-0 to Charlotte.

Chara is currently in his 14th season with the Timbers, and to call him an ironman is an understatement. He has also set the record for regular-season games started for a single team with 370, breaking goalkeeper Nick Rimando’s record for Real Salt Lake.

He holds the distinction of committing the most fouls in MLS with 864, an ongoing record he first broke in 2022.

Known for the broad smile that, at times, he flashes on the field — perhaps an effort to convince referees those weren’t really fouls — Chara says he’s just genuinely happy to be playing.

“I think it’s because I love this sport,” he said. “I enjoy everything. Obviously for my role, it’s very difficult, always get that yellow card. And the referees know me, know my type of play. But I’m only always looking to help the team.”

During his time with the team, the Timbers have won the 2015 MLS championship, three Western Conference titles and the MLS is Back tournament in 2020.

Chara is a fixture in Portland, which has embraced soccer since the Timbers launched as an NASL team in the 1970s. His four kids have joined him on the field after games, and he has worked hard to learn English.

Timbers coach Phil Neville says Chara is not just important to the team, but also to the the entire club and the community.

“I think he epitomizes everything that’s brilliant about this football club, both on and off the pitch. The way he conducts himself, the way he trains, the professionalism. He is one of the classiest acts I’ve ever seen or ever had the privilege to play with or manage.”

Sunday’s game highlights Rivalry Week in MLS. Both the Timbers and the Sounders are having frustrating seasons, with just two wins after 11 games.

The Cascadia Cup was created by supporters of the Timbers, Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps before the teams joined MLS. The winner of the trophy each year is determined by points in the three-way rivalry.

In the MLS era, the Timbers have a 20-16-9 record against the Sounders. Portland has a six-match unbeaten streak in the series (4-0-2) going into Sunday’s match.

“I think it’s going to be a big game for us,” Chara said. “It’s not just for the fans, It’s for the players, too, and hopefully to get a win.”


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