The Portland Timbers continued to demonstrate their commitment with the Hispanic community by hosting their Somos Timbers Bienvenidos event during the last day of the Rose City Invitational tournament. The Bienvenidos event included Latino league and team representatives from all over the state of Oregon as well as a special Q&A from Timbers General Manager Gavin Wilkinson and Timbers Academy Director Mike Smith.
The event was an opportunity for league and team representatives to find out what the Timbers and Thorns have been doing in terms of player acquisition and youth development, and how the Hispanic community can benefit as a result.
Wilkinson started off by talking about the excellent offseason the Timbers had by acquiring high profile players such as Gastón Fernández and Norberto Paparatto ahead of the 2014 MLS season. “Gastón Fernández will have a tremendous season. Keep an eye for him,” said Wilkinson. “We like the fact that we have a group of Spanish speaking players.” Wilkinson explained the importance of integrating these Hispanic players into the community and society in order to help them feel at home.
Smith informed the registered participants on the youth development opportunities within the Timbers organization. One of the goals Smith has is to develop and keep the young Hispanic talent in the Timbers Academy. “Jose Peralta from Boardman (OR) is a young and phenomenal player with a big future,” Smith said. “I want to create programs to help kids physically and mentally develop. It’s my job and I’m here to help.” Smith also provided an insight into the direction the club is trying to go regarding youth development, “the future is small sided games. They create more touch of the ball, this way everyone plays defense and offense.”
The Latino league and team representatives were eager to participate and shared the challenges faced in developing young talented players in their communities. “The biggest challenge is having access to fields. We have the coaches and resources, but we are missing the facilities,” explained the representative of the Eastside Timbers, Sal Contreras. “Having a governing body is the key to control field availability and this is how the Timbers can help.”
Once the event was over, the registered participants were allowed to stay and experience the Rose City Invitational double header finale as well as sport a Timbers Polo and other gifts received at the event. The event was very successful at connecting with the Hispanic soccer community and a testament of the dedication the Timbers have with developing youth soccer in Oregon.