Jeanderson preseason
(USA Today Sports Images)

Adaptable Jeanderson says he's ready for MLS challenge with Portland Timbers

PORTLAND, Ore. - Brazilians sometimes call their home the "country of football."

For the Timbers' newest fullback, Jeanderson, football truly is a way of life.

"It's in my blood," he said via translator. "My whole life, it's something that I've been born with.

"It's obviously helped me a lot being raised in that soccer culture. For me, it really helped to grow up with that pride. I'm very happy and proud to have been born in Brazil."

When he was just twelve years-old, Jeanderson resolved to become a professional soccer player.

His journey into the professional ranks took the young defender from one state league, or campeonato, to the next. He traveled from one end of the country to the other, from the Campeonato Alagoano in the northeast to the Campeonato Gaucho in the south.

"Anybody who knows Brazil and knows my career knows that I played everywhere in Brazil, from very, very hot places to very cold places," he said. "For me, I think that's been a positive experience because it's given me the experience and the know-how to play under difficult conditions."

Each state league that he's played in, Jeanderson says, has helped him develop a different aspect to his game.

"There's a lot of variety in play in the different state leagues," he said. "In the Campeonato Alagoano you actually have to run a lot. The [Campeonato] Paulista is more of a technical game where you touch the ball a lot. The Campeonato Gaucho is one where you have to be very strong and more physical.

"I've acquired a little bit of skill and experience from each of these," he added.

So far this preseason, Jeanderson has already had the opportunity to show what he is capable of  appearing in a number of the team's preseason games in Tucson and should also feature in this week's Simple Invitational (TICKETS) at Providence Park. He believes that the games and training have helped him integrate quickly.

"I feel at home already. I feel as if I've played on the team three years already. I'm super happy to be here and I'll only go back to Brazil on holidays."

Jeanderson also appreciates the more technical aspects of the Timbers' preseason training, which he says differs markedly from the fitness regimen imposed by his old Brazilian coaches.

"Here it's a lot of training with the ball and touches and technical [work]. I found it fantastic that we get to work with the ball and do more [developing] technical abilities instead of just endurance and physical effort."

Speaking only his native Portuguese, Jeanderson has also been working on his English, while also receiving help from his Spanish-speaking teammates, many of whom have faced similar challenges coming to Portland from places like Colombia and Argentina.

"I've been communicating and learning a little of English and Spanish, bit by bit,” he said. "I think it will serve me to learn other languages, not just in soccer, but in my life moving forward.”

All of his experiences, from traveling across Brazil to coming to the United States, have molded Jeanderson into someone who's comfortable in even the most adverse and challenging conditions. And what could be more challenging than leaving home for someplace as different as Portland?

"Nowhere in Brazil is the culture the same as this," he noted. "It's almost the opposite."

The biggest difference, in Jeanderson's view, is the level of respect and education of the people of Portland. He was astonished by the sight of Portland drivers respecting the traffic signals. When the light is red, he said, a Portlander will actually stop. In Brazil, by contrast, many drivers will often burn through a red light for reasons of safety and security.

But there's a difference to Portlanders that goes beyond traffic etiquette.

"People are really respectful, warm, and kind here in the city," he said.

And while he'll miss the beaches of his native Brazil and the culture that has sprung up around them, Jeanderson also says that he appreciates Oregon's cold winter weather.

"I like the cold," he said. "You have to dress nicer in the cold weather."

Topics: