Notebook: U-23s, U-23s alum making an impact this fall

PORTLAND, Ore. – It is a tight race for Major League Soccer’s Supporters Shield and Western Conference title between Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Portland Timbers U-23s alum Collen Warner – a rookie with RSL – is in the thick of it of it all.

Real Salt Lake faces rival the Colorado Rapids in the final weekend of the MLS regular season. On the line Saturday is the Rocky Mountain Cup, but more importantly, a win for Real Salt Lake puts the defending-MLS champions in position to secure the Supporters Shield – MLS’ regular season championship – and the conference title. If results go their way Saturday, Real Salt Lake will have to wait until the outcome of the Galaxy’s fixture against FC Dallas in Southern California on Sunday evening to see if they clinch the league’s top seed heading into the postseason. For Warner, Saturday’s match against the Rapids will be a homecoming of sorts for the first-year pro. He was born and raised in Denver and remembers going to Rapids games a kid.

It's been productive week already for Warner, who Wednesday scored a goal in RSL’s 3-1 victory over Mexico’s Cruz Azul in CONCACAF Champions League action at Rio Tinto Stadium. Along with a handful of CONCACAF Champions League appearances, Warner has played in 12 league games (4 starts) during his rookie campaign, totaling 412 minutes. Warner was a member of the Timbers U-23s’ inaugural squad in 2009. 

Across the pond, former Timbers U-23s defender Graham Dugoni, who was a part of the impressive 2010 season for the Timbers’ development team, is trying to help his club stay above the relegation zone in Norway’s Adeccoligaen (first division).

Mjøndalen IF is currently in 11th place with 28 points and only three points ahead of relegation with five matches left in the season. Since signing with Mjøndalen this fall, Dugoni has appeared in six games (all starts), playing 540 minutes and contributing to two shutouts as a rookie. With Dugoni inserted into the starting lineup, the club is 4-2-0 in its last six games.

Dugoni, a native Oregonian, led the Timbers U-23s to a perfect 20-0-0 record during the 2010 Premier Development League season and the league championship. He helped anchor the league’s best defense, which allowed a league-low six goals in 16 games during the campaign.

In the college ranks, two-year Timbers U-23s player Brent Richards has the University of Washington on a turnaround season in Seattle, Wash. The Huskies recently picked apart Oregon State University for a 4-0 victory, in a match that featured seven members of the Timbers U-23s’ 2010 team. Richards scored twice in that match and Quinton Beasley, who also suited up for the Timbers U-23s in 2010, also found the back of the net.

Richards, who took home the 2010 PDL MVP award among several postseason honors, leads the Huskies in scoring for a third straight season with eight goals in 13 games. He credits some of his success this season to his performance over the summer with the Timbers U-23s.
Several members of the Timbers U-23s have the University of Portland fighting for the top spot in the West Coast Conference this season. Midfielders Jarad vanSchaik and Michael Nielsen, who both played for the U-23s in 2010, contributed the scoring in a commanding 3-1 win over the University of San Francisco in the Pilots' last match. In the month of October, the Pilots are 3-1-1 and flirting with a Top 25 national ranking. Overall, the Univ. of Portland is 7-2-4 this season and ranks second in the WCC with a 4-1-1 conference record behind LMU, which is unbeaten (5-0-1) in conference play.
A two-year member of the Timbers U-23s, freshman midfielder Steven Evans leads the Pilots with four assists and has started all 13 games this season. 

On the national stage, Timbers U-23s defender Brock Granger has contributed to an unbeaten season for the Louisville Cardinals and a top national ranking. The No. 1/2 Cardinals are 11-0-2 on the year and is one of just three remaining unbeaten teams left in Division I, joining Akron and Butler. Granger has started 12 of the team’s 13 matches and ranks among league leaders with three assists. He played 14 games for the Timbers U-23s last summer, helping the club to its first PDL championship and now has his sights on a NCAA title with Louisville.