By Brad Bourque @CmmrBourque

If you're going to catch a Major League Soccer match at Providence Park, you want to sit with the Timbers Army.

The loudest part of the park, where supporters stand and scarves swing, provides an unbeatable experience. You'll sing, chant, share pocket beers and probably end up hugging a stranger.

But if you want to roll with the Army, there are some things you should know.

Don't get scalped…

Portland Timbers tickets are tough to come by. There are more than 10,000 season-ticket holders, and single-game tickets for big games sell out before they're on sale. Still want to go?

Your best bet isn't the scalpers, but the Timbers Ticket Exchange. This Facebook group will let you swap tickets with other fans at face value. Just make sure to have your PayPal ready, and refresh often for popular matches.

Scarf up…

If you need a scarf, you can't go wrong with a classic No Pity, and the only place to get one is at the yellow No Pity van across the street from Providence Park before and after each match.

Go early…

General-admission seating is behind that big block of Tillamook cheddar. Yes, your tickets have seat numbers, but that doesn't mean anything here. If you want a good seat in the Army, you'll have to get to the stadium early. Dedicated fans line up early in the morning for wristbands, waiting overnight for the very best seats.

If you value your sleep, the gates open two hours before kickoff, and people start lining up an hour or so before. As long as you're in line at least an hour before the match, you shouldn't have an issue finding a decent seat.

This Army is organized…

If this is your first time in the Army, you'll want to swing by the 107ist table, located in the concourse across from Section 107, to pick up a chant sheet. Standing, yelling and chanting is heavily encouraged in the north end of the stadium, while colorful language is tolerated and appreciated more often than not.

Cards are preferred…

The best way to have the stamina for chanting is to drink some booze. The best place to get that booze is at the Double Post, the bar behind Section 109, where there are 12 beers on tap. Good beers, too: Pfriem, Widmer and HUB. One advantage of joining the 107ist Foundation is getting $1 off each beer before halftime.

Grub up…

If you arrive in the first hour gates are open, head to the food-cart alliance in the south corner and the beer booth next to it. A cup of Rolling Rock is only $2, and the food from local carts like Pok Pok, 808 Grinds and Nong's Khao Man Gai is some of the best in the park and priced similarly to what you'll find at their other locations.


Three home games we're excited about in the first half of the season…

Vs. Minnesota United FC, 6:30 pm Friday, March 3

In the season opener, the Timbers take on the expansion Minnesota United FC, playing its first MLS match. Minnesota boasts a large support group, the Dark Clouds, so expect a stormy front as it faces off against the raucous Timbers Army.

Vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 1 pm Saturday, April 22

While we don't have a chance to gut the fish at home in the first half of the season, the Whitecaps will come to Portland for a hotly contested inter-Cascadia match. Vancouver's support group, the Southsiders, will be conspicuously absent after deciding to boycott matches in the United States because of President Trump's immigration policies.

Vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8 pm Friday, June 2

Portland might be scared of earthquakes, but not this one. The Earthquakes spend a lot more time thinking about us than we do about them. San Jose's often-shirtless Ultras tend to bring trouble wherever they go, as does striker Chris Wondolowski, a skilled goal scorer. It's always exciting when these teams meet; just make sure the Earthquakes know who our real rival is.