Timbers Notebook: Tryout season in full swing; Saunders to return in goal

Portland, Ore. - Professional soccer made its first appearance of the year last Saturday as a number of players from all over the country came to Portland to show their stuff. Included in the group were college standouts as well as pros from both the USL and the MLS. The players arrived shortly after 11 a.m. and, after a brief introductory speech from the Timbers coach Chris Agnello, tryouts got underway around noon.

According to Agnello, the trial went incredibly well, with all 41 of the invited players taking part. The trialists took part in several different warm-ups, drills and scrimmages, and many of them greatly impressed the new coach and general manager.

“There was very good talent on hand Saturday, and I will definitely be making an offer to at least two of the players,” said Agnello. “In addition, there will be a number of other offers that I will be considering as we move closer to the start of the season.”

Agnello continues with his philosophy of building from the back, in which he solidifies positions on defense and in goal before setting midfield and attacking roles. To help him scout rearguard talent, Agnello brought in veteran defender Gavin Wilkinson to act as an assistant during the trial. Wilkinson’s 116 appearances and 9,898 minutes played place him second among the Timbers’ career leaders dating back to the 2001 season.

Open Tryout Set for Saturday
Phase two of the tryout schedule is set to take place this Saturday at 10 a.m. at PGE Park. Coach Agnello will again be taking to the field to evaluate a new group of players as he looks to set his team for the upcoming campaign. The players registered for this Saturday will go through a similar set of drills and scrimmages to those that were carried out at last weekend’s trial.

Recent registration information shows that, like the invitation-only tryout, players from all over the country have been registering for the trial on Saturday. More than 25 players have signed up from as far away as Maryland to put their talent on display. Washington, Texas, California, Alaska, Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah will also be represented when the trialists take the field.

“We will also be having six invitees that weren’t able to attend last Saturday’s tryout in town this weekend,” said Agnello. “I will be carefully looking at and evaluating them along with all of the other players who have signed up.” Registration information is still available by visiting the home page and clicking on the link on the right side of the screen.

Tickets on Sale, Open House also set for Saturday
Fans looking to pick up tickets for any of the games on the Timbers schedule this season can swing by PGE Park on Saturday when individual game tickets go on sale. Be sure to land the best seats for all 14 home matches by stopping in anytime after noon.

Tickets will also be available online by visiting www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at (503) 224-4400 or by visiting Portland-area Ticketmaster locations, including those located in Fred Meyer and G.I. Joe’s.

For fans that want to get to know the park better, members of the Timbers front office staff will also be at the stadium giving tours. This is a great opportunity to not only check out your seats before you buy them, but take a look at our beautiful Field Suites and Pavilion Suites as well. These free tours will be available from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Full and partial-season ticket plans are still available and can be bought by calling the PGE Park ticket office at (503) 553-5555.

Saunders Returns to the Timbers
It was announced March 1 that Josh Saunders is returning to the field this season to mind the goal. The keeper, whose 25th birthday was Thursday, will be playing his fourth season for the Timbers.

Over his three seasons with the Timbers (2003-05), Saunders has collected 35 wins, 268 saves and 18 shutouts, all career franchise highs in the team’s five seasons as a USL First Division club.

Last season, Saunders tied for the league lead in minutes played (2,520), playing in each of the Timbers’ 28 matches during the regular season. Saunders was third among USL First Division goalkeepers in saves (106), also ranking among the league leaders in wins (10; T-4th), shutouts (6; T-6th), and goals-against average (1.5; 8th).