In their short, two-year history in the Premier Development League, the Portland Timbers U-23s have helped several aspiring players on to their professional soccer careers. Two more Timbers U-23s alumni – midfielders Bim Ogunyemi and Jarad vanSchaik – look to join that bright and growing list.
Both Ogunyemi and vanSchaik were selected in the various drafts held by Major League Soccer in January and both head into preseason training camps with their respective clubs, looking to make the roster and fulfill life-long dreams.
A key contributor in the Timbers U-23s PDL title run in 2010, Ogunyemi was selected 17th overall in the MLS Supplemental Draft by reigning Western Conference champs FC Dallas. From Lake Orion, Mich., Ogunyemi made the most of his time in the Rose City, recording four goals and seven assists in 20 games during a record-setting season for the Timbers U-23s. After a standout PDL season, he’s up for the challenge of continuing his budding career in MLS.
“It is a great feeling when a team wants to bring you in and evaluate you,” said Ogunyemi. “It is a dream come true, but I know this is only the beginning and I must work hard to become a better player. FC Dallas showed how great of a team they are by making it to the MLS Cup last year. They have players with great abilities; I’m a champion as well.”
Ogunyemi, who played two years at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Mich., felt that his lone season with the Timbers’ development team helped prepare him for this next step.
“Playing with Timbers U-23s last year was a great experience for me,” said Ogunyemi. “I learned to become a more of a complete team player for the cause of winning games. We were an exceptional group – the best team in PDL history.”
A local product from Tualatin, Ore., vanSchaik was a two-year member of the Timbers U-23s, but injuries limited his play on the field to just one game in 2010. A part of the team’s inaugural roster in 2009, he’s a part of Timbers U-23s history, scoring the first-ever goal for the club in it’s opening match.
Fresh off a successful collegiate career on the bluff at the University of Portland, vanSchaik was selected in the third round (52nd overall) of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by Real Salt Lake. Coincidentally at RSL, he re-joins former collegiate and Timbers U-23s teammate Collen Warner.
After playing a majority of his collegiate career and over a dozen games for the Timbers U-23s at midfield, vanSchaik will have the task of learning a new position as he attempts to crack the roster for the 2009 MLS Cup champions.
“From all accounts he’s got the potential to be a very good outside back,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. “He’s a left-footed player that has good size and speed, and we’ll see if he can’t make the transition for us.”
“This really is a dream come true,” vanSchaik said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about anything in my life. I’m just thankful for the opportunity and I’m ready to work as hard as I can.”
While Warner was the first member of the Timbers U-23s to make it to MLS in 2010, there are a handful of other alumni playing professionally around the globe. Defender Graham Dugoni signed on with a Norwegian first-division side following his time with the Timbers U-23s in 2010. Daniel Leach, a defender on the inaugural Timbers U-23s team in 2009, signed with Barnet FC in England after his season with the team. Midfielders Frankie Lopez and Avneet Shergill have both moved on, joining Mexico’s Jaguares and India’s Salgaocar SC, respectively after a season in a Timbers U-23s shirt.
Will Ogunyemi and vanSchaik join the list of Timbers U-23s among the pro ranks? Only time will tell. One thing you can certainly count on is that these two are ready to put in the work, and wherever their soccer careers take them, their futures look bright.