PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers U-23s formally began preparations for the 2012 Premier Development League (PDL) season last week as they opened a two-week camp for available roster players and select trialists.
The team currently has 20 players on its 2012 roster; two of whom, midfielders Steven Evans and Roberto Farfan, are entering their fourth year with the team. Notable additions include 2011 MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist Mark Sherrod from the University of Memphis, U.S. U-20 National Team defender Eric Miller of Creighton and All-Pac-12 goalkeeper Spencer Richey from the University of Washington.
“I know what it’s like being a first year guy,” Evans said in reference to being a senior leader on the team. “I’m trying to help them out in transitioning from [the college] level to playing with us.”
The Timbers U-23s kick off their 16-game, regular-season schedule Friday, May 11 at 7 p.m. with a home match against Fraser Valley at JELD-WEN Field. Additionally, the Timbers U-23s will compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2012 for the first time in team history, opening tournament play May 15.
Training will continue at the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District’s Howard M. Terpenning Recreation Complex this week under the tutelage of head coach Jim Rilatt, now in his fourth year as head coach.
“Getting a chance to put together all of these personalities and styles under the way we play here at the Portland Timbers, that’s really exciting, and if it works, it’ll be another successful season,“ he said.
After the first week of practice, Rilatt came away impressed with what the team accomplished.
“They have a willingness to adapt to the style of play we want, and our style is high tempo, high energy, and athleticism. They made a great effort trying to adapt and it’ll be fun to watch them going forward.”
The team got off to a bright start in 2011, positioning itself to challenge for a second successive Northwest Division crown. However, a rough backend of the season saw the Timbers U-23s miss the postseason for the first time since joining the PDL in 2009.
The disappointment of a year ago has not dampened the expectations for 2012 however, as the team is focusing on finishing well in the Northwest Division and a return to the playoffs.
“The expectation of the organization is that we do very well in our league and that we do well in the playoffs,” Rilatt said. “The other expectation is that we look to develop one or two more players for the first team. That’s hugely important.”
With Freddie Bruan, Ryan Kawulok, Brent Richards,and Jake Gleeson all having graduated to the senior side from the Timbers U-23s in the past two seasons, the model and inspiration is there for the players.
“It all gives us a little hope that, ‘hey, it can be done,’ you can play here and then make it to where you want to be,” Evans said. “So I think those guys are a good example of ‘work hard and then you never know what can happen.’”