The Portland Timbers experienced their first MLS SuperDraft as a franchise Thursday, but that wasn’t the only reason to get excited.
The Portland Timbers experienced their first MLS SuperDraft as a franchise Thursday, but that wasn’t the only reason to get excited. The Timbers selected forward Darlington Nagbe with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft, a player whom most observers considered the “consensus best-player” in this year’s draft class.
Head coach John Spencer said he was “very surprised and absolutely ecstatic” after the pick had been made.
Portland’s Northwest rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps, surprisingly made 17-year old Omar Salgado the No. 1 overall pick, allowing Nagbe to seemingly fall into the Timbers’ lap.
Nagbe was the NCAA Div-I Hermann Trophy Winner in 2010, given to college soccer’s best player. Nagbe helped the University of Akron win the National Championship, scoring seven goals and tallying 13 assists in 25 starts for the Zips.
In general, it was an active day for the Timbers, as the team also traded for Seattle’s No. 11 pick and an international roster spot for Portland’s No. 20 pick and allocation money.
Eventually, Portland traded the No. 11 pick away to Houston for a sum of allocation money that was reportedly bigger than the amount they paid to Seattle. The Timbers also selected defender Chris Taylor from the University of Tulsa in the second round with the No. 22 pick.
“The experience has been exhausting, but everyone has loved doing what we’ve done,” said Gavin Wilkinson, the Timbers’ technical director. “To come out with what we have makes all of the hard work worthwhile. Nagbe could be a player that we think has the ability to become the face of the organization in years to come, if not sooner. I think that for the organization, it’s been a very, very good day.”
“We picked up, in our eyes, probably the best young player in the country in Darlington Nagbe,” Spencer said. “We all put in a tremendous amount of work in this and came together and tried to study right and do our due diligence on these players. We got the guys we were looking for.”
With Portland’s MLS debut less than two months away, the Timbers have secured 18 total players for their 2011 roster. MLS teams can have up to 30 players on their rosters, with 18–20 of those players on the senior MLS team, leaving about 10 spots for developmental players. Developmental players will play in the reserve league, similar to the minor leagues in baseball, with certain players able to move up to the senior roster on game days. Official details are still being worked on.
The Timbers have actively been building their roster in preparation for their first MLS game on Saturday, March 19, on the road against the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids.
In October, the Timbers announced the signing of the franchise’s first four players. The signings were all players brought up from Division-2, including last season’s leading goal-scorer and the USSF’s Golden Boot winner, midfielder Ryan Pore, as well as forwards Bright Dike, Eddie Johnson and goalkeeper Steve Cronin. Last month, Cronin was traded for DC United keeper Troy Perkins, a former MLS Keeper of the Year in 2006.
In late November, Portland and Vancouver participated in the Expansion Draft, where both franchises were able to draft players from existing MLS teams (existing teams could protect up to 11 players). Portland selected Dallas FC midfielder Dax McCarty with the No. 1 overall pick, but would later trade away his rights to DC United for defender Rodney Wallace and allocation money. The Timbers came away with a slew of talented young players with MLS experience already under their belts, such as defenders Eric Brunner and David Horst, and midfielders Adam Moffatt and Peter Lowry.
“It’s important that we play for 2011 to 2012 to 2020,” Spencer said after the expansion draft. “We’ve brought guys to the club that have a blue-collar, hard-working mentality.”
The Timbers have been aggressive in the MLS open market and will likely remain proactive towards building a winning team as the season-opener approaches. Portland has already signed the highly touted Kerrea Gilbert, an experienced defender from England, and is on the verge of signing American striker and former National team member Kenny Cooper. It’s also been rumored a big-name player, possibly from Colombia, could sign with the team in the near future.
“The fans (can expect) a lot of activity, a lot of announcements, and a team that they can be proud of,” said Timbers’ owner Merritt Paulson.
Players will report to pre-season training camp within the next two to three weeks; in the meantime, don’t be surprised to see a few more tricks up the sleeves of the Timbers’ front office. ?