Jake Gleeson, preseason training, 2.5.16

TUCSON, Ariz. – Entering his sixth season with the Portland Timbers, goalkeeper Jake Gleeson enjoyed a short offseason following the team’s MLS Cup run, but he didn’t stay quiet for long.

After spending much of December exploring Crater Lake, Bend and the Oregon Coast, Timbers goalkeeping coach Adin Brown and the staff presented Gleeson with a chance to train with Aalesunds FK of the Norwegian Tippeligaen to keep sharp and develop over the break.

“Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity to go over there and I was really happy with the decision,” said Gleeson.

Brown played five seasons for top-flight Aalesunds (2005-2009) and his connections with his former club helped pave the way for the European trip. The Tangotrøyene side finished their 2015 season in November and are currently in preparations for their 2016 campaign. For Gleeson, the near two-week period in January presented a chance to challenge himself.

“I think you see a different league and a different environment. I think that’s important to get out there and see that,” he said. “They’re a very good team and it’s a very good league so just to kind of go over there and test yourself.”

Aalesunds' respected goalkeeping coach Frank Mathiesen worked closely with Gleeson during his time there. Along with having extensive experience with the Norwegian national youth teams, Mathiesen also served as coach and mentor to Brown during his time in the Tippeligaen.

“I definitely learned a lot from him when I played for him,” said Brown. “I think a lot of the stuff that I use and I do [in coaching], comes from stuff that he’s taught me or stuff that I picked up just from watching him. I’ve also been over there a number of times and watched his trainings.

"He’s probably one of the most influential coaches I had just because I was with him for so long.”

Mathiesen was able to provide Gleeson with some new perspectives on his goalkeeping craft. With one of Aalesunds’ regular goalkeepers injured, Gleeson received a great deal of extra work in Norway, even participating in an intra-squad scrimmage.

“It was great to get his opinion on me, what I need to work on and where I am,” said Gleeson. “I really enjoyed that part of it too.”

Though English was spoken frequently on the training pitch, the well-traveled Gleeson made an attempt to learn some Norwegian while there as well.

“I was trying to read menus over there and I had to get my phone out and type in full words [to translate]. It was horrible,” he said with a laugh.

Jake Gleeson's offseason training in Norway helping prepare him for busy 2016 season with the Portland Timbers -

Gleeson, in the back row, with the Aalesunds squad for a team outing. Photo: Frank Mathiesen

One of four Timbers on the roster that were part of the club’s inaugural MLS team, Gleeson spent much of the 2015 season on loan with the Timbers USL side T2. While there, he started 20 games and earned three clean sheets. Gleeson was also a key part of the Timbers’ 2015 MLS Cup-winning run as he made an emergency start in place of flu-stricken Adam Kwarasey in the first leg of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Credited with three saves in the match, Gleeson helped the team to a 0-0 draw that set them up for an eventual 2-0 aggregate victory. Along with his 2015 MLS Cup ring, Gleeson has won a USL PDL Championship with the Timbers U-23s in 2010 and backstopped Sacramento Republic FC while on loan to a 2014 USL PRO Championship in 2014.

All of that continued experience along with the illuminating time in Norway, sets Gleeson up for an important 2016. With MLS, CONCACAF Champions League and U.S. Open Cup all on the horizon, a full calendar approaches.

“I think he’s going to get some opportunities to show us what he’s capable of and just being ready for those moments,” said Brown. “Once his name and number is called, and he goes out there and performs, he can show us that he’s capable of doing the job.”

Gleeson is ready for the challenge.

“It’s a big year, I’m getting a little older now so it’s time to really step up and see what happens and do well in every opportunity that I’m given.”