While the Portland Timbers prepare for their second preseason match of the Rose City Invitational, presented by Parklane Mattresses, against Portmore United on Wednesday night (7:30pm PT, webstream at Timbers.com, TICKETS), there’s one Portland player with a special knowledge about the upcoming Jamaican opponent.
Defender Alvas Powell spent two seasons with Portmore in the Jamaican Red Stripe Premier League before coming on loan to the Timbers midway through the 2013 season. In five matches for Portland, four of them starts, the young defender played 382 minutes on the backline showing a physical style of play and good speed from the outside back position. Also a rising star for the Jamaica National Team, the 19-year-old Powell played in three World Cup qualifiers last year for the Reggae Boyz and has a total of nine senior national team caps already to his name.
Born and raised in Jamaica, the teenaged Powell split time between his family’s home and the Portmore team campus—a good three hours away. Powell though, desired a push for more discipline and a bigger challenge which eventually saw him come north to Portland.
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“I had been watching Portland for a long time, and Portland’s structure of the team, the players, it was fantastic,” explained Powell. “I had always watched Portland because Portland is a nice attacking team.”
“The stuff that I normally did in Jamaica was pretty easy, but while training here each day I’ve been learning and learning. So it’s a big difference.”
Powell is one of a growing number of players from Jamaica who have come to MLS to ply their trade. With over a dozen Jamaicans in MLS, scouts continue to comb the Caribbean island for talent. This offseason saw the league host their first ever Caribbean Combine in Antigua with players from across the region and January’s 2014 MLS SuperDraft saw a Jamaican go No. 1 overall to Philadelphia in goalkeeper Andre Blake.
For Portmore United’s head coach Calvin Lewis, while he acknowledges that more Jamaicans are heading to MLS and he may lose a promising player, he realizes that in the long run, it will help his team.
“For our club, on a business end, it’s always good when you can export players,” said Lewis. “Of all the clubs in Jamaica, we’ve exported the most players. It’s good to know that over the years, we continue export quality players.”
The Timbers aren’t the only club in the Rose City Invitational with ties to Portmore. The Vancouver Whitecaps selected Portmore’s Andre Lewis No. 7 overall in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and the 2012 MLS SuperDraft saw them take fellow Jamaican Darren Mattocks No. 2 overall. Though not a Portmore United alum, Mattocks grew up in the burgeoning soccer town of Portmore.
With Powell, Lewis is overflowing with praise for his former player. After a PUFC junior coach spotted the young defender playing a game, they offered him a spot and he walked right into the team. Lewis describes him as a “fantastic player, very hard working, young, vibrant, and full of energy.” Powell’s ongoing development for both club and country is a clear badge of pride for Lewis and Portmore.
“It’s a joy for players, staff, and everyone at Portmore United to know that Alvas is one of our young players,” said Lewis. “Everyone wants to follow in his footsteps right now.”
For the soft-spoken Powell, he continues to focus on improving his game, training hard, and learning from his teammates and coaches each day. Timbers goalkeeper and fellow Jamaican Donovan Ricketts, who Powell reverently calls “my brother,” quickly took the young player under his wing last season and has continued to be an influence for Powell.
“He’s encouraged me a lot,” said Powell of his Reggae Boyz teammate. “I feel thankful and as they say I have to have manners and just keep working hard.”
Though there is excitement at seeing his one-time Portmore United coach and teammates on the pitch, Powell knows that March 8 and the MLS regular season is very near. The defender has a simple, yet very direct, set of goals for upcoming campaign:
“Right now, it’s get in the starting eleven, score some goals, and lift a trophy.”