Timbers U-23s set the bar high for future seasons
August 7, 2009
Scoring over 40 goals this season and going unbeaten at home, the Portland Timbers U-23s finished their inaugural season in United Soccer League’s Premier Development League with high hopes for the seasons to come. The Timbers development team set the bar high for the following years by scoring the most goals in their division and earning a playoff birth in their first season.
Inaugural Season – The Portland Timbers U-23s were one of four new teams added to the Northwest Division this year, along with the Kitsap Pumas, Seattle Wolves, and Victoria Highlanders. Portland finished its season in second place in the division with 35 points and a record of 11-3-2, just four points behind the first-place Pumas, one of two professional teams in the division.
During the 2009 season, the Timbers U-23s led the division in goals scored (43) and goals scored at home (29), and was one of eight teams in the entire 68-team PDL to remain unbeaten at home this season. Portland’s home schedule featured matches at different venues throughout the Portland community, including three matches at PGE Park and one at the Kiggins Bowl in Vancouver, Wash.
Youngsters and Veterans – The Timbers U-23s roster covered a vast age gap, ranging from rising young teenagers to experienced veterans, which proved to be a winning mix for the Timbers U-23s. Veterans with previous professional experience included, forward Ryan Youngblood, defender Josh Brown, and defender/midfielder Miguel Guante. Local Portland-area high school standouts forward Steven Evans and midfielder Roberto Farfan were also featured on the Timbers U-23s roster.
Youngblood provided the scoring this season, leading the Timbers U-23s in goals scored with 11 and ended the season in a three-way tie for seventh place in the entire PDL for goals scored. Youngblood suited up for the Timbers first team in 2003 and appeared in six games as a defender.
Brown served as a veteran for the Portland defense and helped guide the team to five shutouts. He appeared in 12 of the team’s matches and tallied two goals this season. In 2006, Brown played in 328 minutes for the Timbers first team.
Guante, who was the 2008 Community Player of the Year for the Timbers, played the 2009 PDL season while continuing his recovery from microfracture surgery over the offseason. Guante started eight games and a tallied a goal and an assist for the Timbers U-23s.
Evans, who tallied a goal and an assist this season for Portland, attends Central Catholic High School and will be graduating in the spring of 2010. Farfan, who plays club soccer at Eastside United FC with Evans, is set to start his collegiate career this fall at UNLV.
The Timbers U-23s roster showcased some of Oregon’s talented current and former college players, with five players from the University of Portland and three from Oregon State University. In total, 14 of the Timbers U-23s players were from the state of Oregon.
Moving On – Forward Warren Ukah and defender Daniel Leach have each signed professional contracts since appearing with the Timbers U-23s. Ukah, who appeared in two games for the Timbers U-23s and scored three goals, signed with USL First Division Rochester Rhinos in July.
Leach, an Australian native, appeared in 10 matches for the Timbers U-23s last season and was a key ingredient of the team’s backline. After the season, he appeared for English club Barnet Bees in a friendly against English Premier League powerhouse Arsenal. Following the game, Leach was signed to a one-year contract with the club for the upcoming season in England’s Coca-Cola League Two (England’s fourth division).
Goals All-Around – Leading the Northwest Division with the most goals scored this season, the Timbers U-23s saw a wealth of scoring from numerous players. Forwards Jordan Crasilneck and Brent Richards were significant offensive threats for the Timbers U-23s. Crasilneck scored five goals, including the game-winning goal against the Yakima Reds on July 11 to seal a playoff spot. Richards tallied four goals for Portland and also led the team with four assists. In total, 19 different Timbers U-23s players scored this season.
One For The History Books – Midfielder Mutanda Kwesele became the first player in franchise history to sign with the Timbers U-23s. Kwesele, a native of Seattle, featured in 10 Timbers U-23s matches but missed the final few games due to injury. He also appeared as a second half sub in the Timbers first team exhibition match against Bayern Munich II.
Timbers U-23s Individual Accomplishments – Youngblood was recently announced by USL to the PDL Western Conference Team for his play this season. Along with his 11 goals, Youngblood also logged three assists for the Timbers U-23s, totaling a team high of 25 points in just 16 games. Youngblood was also recognized as the PDL Player of the Week in the 11th week of the season.
In Portland’s first week of action, midfielder Jarad vanSchaik was named to the PDL Team of the Week following the first franchise goal in the Timbers U-23s inaugural season.
by: Natalie Budge