SuperDraft | Portland Timbers impressed with Nick Besler, who is "already thinking like a pro"

PHILADELPHIA – A day before Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, Portland Timbers Caleb Porter went down to the hotel gym and saw only one player: Nick Besler.

Having coached against him at the college level, the former Akron coach already had a good idea what kind of character the Notre Dame midfielder had. But the random gym encounter certainly cemented his decision to take Besler with the fifth overall pick in the draft Thursday.

“You got the impression that he’s already thinking like a pro,” Porter told “He’s really hungry.”

During his four years at Notre Dame, Besler played against Porter and Akron a couple of times. And when Porter wasn’t coaching against him, he was certainly watching the Notre Dame midfielder, especially in the 2013 College Cup when Besler led the Fighting Irish to the program’s first national championship.

“I talked to Caleb prior to the draft and he said that he liked how I played,” Besler said. “He’s seen me play for the last three, four years. He said he’s been following me and that he’s liked what he saw. So I’m excited.”

Besler said he’s also excited to learn from Portland midfielders Will Johnson and Diego Chara, calling them “some of the best” players in the league.

But even though the Timbers have a lot of talent in the midfield, Porter believes Besler will have the opportunity to carve out his own place on the squad.

“He’s a guy that fits our system,” Porter said. “Even though we have some defensive midfielders, we don’t really have a true No. 6 that sits and holds. We have more box-to-box mids, so he brings something just a little different. He’s a guy that can swing to center back as well.”

Of course, all American soccer fans are familiar with another American center back named Besler. And for Nick, joining the same league as his older brother Matt – a star defender on Sporting Kansas City and the US national team – is certainly a thrill, albeit an interesting one.

“It’s going to be a little different now,” Besler said. “I’m playing against him now, and it won’t be easy.”

Porter said that he put more stock in the fact that Besler was a captain on an NCAA powerhouse like Notre Dame, but admitted that having that kind of family pedigree is “a nice bonus.”

“It doesn’t guarantee anything,” the Timbers coach said. “But I’ve always found when you have one guy in the family that’s made it, the next guy is a little more hungry.”