PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s safe to say that Michael Harrington returned to his second year with the Portland Timbers a new man.
At the very least, he had quite the offseason.
The veteran fullback got married, and then he got his first call-up to the US national team. And now that he’s been back with his club for a couple weeks, he said the latter experience is helping him take his game to a new level.
“Being able to play with that coaching staff and obviously a group of players that is very accomplished and experienced, I think I have just a little bit more confidence coming back,” Harrington said of his January USMNT camp experience after a recent training session at Providence Park.
And while the theme of the Timbers preseason camp has been continuity – with a majority of the players from last season’s regular season Western Conference Championship club returning – Harrington is coming back to an even deeper roster.
The Timbers acquired former Chivas USA midfielder/defender Jorge Villafaña over the offseason to not only provide some much-needed depth along the back line, but to also give the team’s most comfortable player last year a little healthy competition.
“The nice thing is, and the reason we added Jorge, is to have a good one and two guy and hopefully there’s a competition there,” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. “Because that will make both of them better.”
And both players are embracing their roles, something Harrington said is aided by the fact that the locker room has become such a tightly knit group.
“That chemistry is already there,” Harrington said.
He also said it will be good to have multiple quality players at every position, , especially with the added responsibility of CONCACAF Champions League action on the schedule starting in late summer.
“It’s important to have a deep squad and have people who are always pushing you and helping everybody to get better,” Harrington said. “That’s going to help our team a lot this year.”
Villafaña – who played for Porter with the US U-23 national team and received the bulk of the first-team time at left back while Harrington was still away at national team camp – said he’s just happy to contribute to a team expected to compete for the MLS Cup.
“You have to put your work in and try to win the spot,” Villafaña said. “Nothing is going to be easy, and you just have to work for it.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.