Portland, Ore. - Goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey never backs down from a challenge.
When he began his career with Strømsgodset in 2007, the club was newly promoted to the top flight of the Norwegian Tippeligaen and fighting against relegation. By 2013, the team stuck together to win the league for the first time since 1970 with Kwarasey becoming team captain and taking home Tippeligaen Goalkeeper of the Year honors.
“It was a really good feeling because we’d been through ups and downs together and finally we could lift the trophy, which was our main goal and our target when we started working,” he said. “It was one of my finest memories on the football pitch.”
Born in Oslo to a Ghanaian father and Norwegian mother, Kwarasey tagged along with his older brother onto the pitch and began playing soccer at a young age. Hitting a growth spurt at 14, Kwarasey grew taller and turned to goalkeeping. Making his debut with Strømsgodset at age 20, he went on to play 154 games with the Norwegian side and was a member of the Ghana national team in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
But after winning the Tippeligaen and collecting individual honors, the easy-going, unflappable and ambitious Kwarasey began looking for his next challenge.
“I spoke with my agent, and of course there were interests other places closer to Norway, but he started speaking about MLS,” said Kwarasey.
Intrigued, Kwarasey found that the Timbers were keen to come to him, in this case, literally. Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson and goalkeeping coach Mike Toshack flew to talk with Kwarasey in person. The meeting made a strong impression.
“The fact that they just came to Norway— 15 hours away from Portland—just have a chat with me for two hours, then yeah, the commitment was overwhelming,” he said. “I felt, ‘They really want me.’”
Moreover, the team made clear to Kwarasey their ambition to succeed.
“I think it’s more important to be able to win something and that the team is able to fight for a trophy, than just making money. When you’re finished with your career, you’re left with your memories and you’ll always remember if you win something. For me that was really important,” said Kwarasey. “And that they said that next season they’re going for the cup.”
Kwarasey began tracking down videos on YouTube of Timbers matches and Providence Park. The fantastic Timbers Army atmosphere and strong club culture helped seal the deal.
“This is way better than many big clubs in Europe, the sport and the fans and even the way the club is working,” he said.
Coming from Norway, a place known for Scandinavian hospitality, Kwarasey was also struck by the friendliness he found when he visited the Rose City. A new father with a six month-old son, Kwarasey was put at ease by the club’s commitment to his young family.
“I think this will be a great place for us to continue our life, and also a place where I can play some good football,” he said.
With preseason training set to begin next month, Kwarasey is eager to further connect with his new teammates and start down the road towards this new challenge. While he knows he’ll need to adjust to a new country and league, it’s a challenge that he welcomes with calm confidence.
“Football is the same everywhere, especially for a goalkeeper. The shots are no harder in the United States than in Europe.”