“I’m really excited to come back to the Timbers,” said Saunders. “Just playing here and being from Oregon is an honor. It’s a great team with great coaches and great fans. I want to win an A-League championship here and do as much as I can for the team and promote pro soccer in Portland.”
Saunders, 23, joined the Timbers seven weeks into the 2003 season on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer. His impact was felt immediately, as the Timbers went on to win six of their next seven games, en route to a third consecutive winning season.
Saunders was 10-4-2 with a 0.90 goals-against average in 16 games with Portland.
"I'm thrilled that we're going have Josh Saunders back in goal this season," said Timbers general manager Jim Taylor. "I thought given the circumstances of being forced into the starting roll, that Josh, as a first-year player, handled himself very well and showed why he is one of the up and coming goalkeepers in this league."
Allowing 15 goals in 16 games, his goals-against average was fifth best in the league and the best in the Timbers’ three seasons.
Saunders, who was named to the A-League’s Team of the Week for Week 11 in recognition of back-to-back shutout wins over Calgary and Vancouver, recorded shutouts in six of his 10 victories with the Timbers.
Prior to his professional career, Saunders, a Grants Pass, Ore., native and a Cal-Berkeley graduate, became the first goalkeeper named Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2002 after leading the Golden Bears to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.
Saunders was selected in the fourth round (36th overall) by San Jose in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft.