"It's the best environment I've been in," [Jesse] Garcia-Aguilar said. "They push us every day to become better. They treat everyone here as young pros; that's what I really like about it. They give us a lot of support. And they tell us the truth because we need the truth to become better."
With the Portland Timbers arrival into Major League Soccer came a mandate from the league that the club would need to start a new academy system. During the 2011 season, the Timbers began with an Academy staff that set up regional training centers around the state, administration of the Olympic Development Program, and some pre-academy teams.
Those pre-academy teams gave way to full fledged U-16 and U-18 squads that began play this fall. Most recently the team was in Florida as part of the overall U.S. Development Academy Winter Showcase.
But one element of the new academy that caused some issues upon launch was the requirement from MLS that academy players could no longer participate in their high school teams. But the academy system was built to utilize best practices from the Timbers and MLS to help develop players to the highest level they can be it for college soccer, the Timbers' first team, or even the U.S. national team.
Academy co-director breaks it down thusly:
"They're getting lots of very good practice with and against the best players," Smith said. "We are trying to develop players that ultimately and eventually can play on the first team. But also can we help get all these kids get recruited into top college programs and push them as far as they want to go?"
Dan Itel of the Hillsboro Argus as well as beat writer for MLSsoccer.com, does an in-depth look into the new academy system through the eyes of two of its players, Jesse Garcia-Aguilar and Alejandro Segovia of the Timbers U-16 squad.
Adjustements, new challenges, and a greater sense of development are all at play as the future of Timbers soccer begins in Portland. Give the whole piece a read.
Also of note on a heavy day of player movement across the league was MLS releasing the list of players eligible for Friday's Stage 1 Re-Entry Draft.
While the rules around the Re-Entry Draft can get arcane, let's try to break it down.
In the MLS Rule book, eligibility is determined by the following:
--Players who are at least 23 years old and have a minimum of three years experience in MLS whose options were not exercised by their clubs (available at option salary for 2013).
--Players who are at least 25 years old with a minimum of four years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them at their previous salary (available for at least their 2012 salary).
--Players who are at least 30 years old with a minimum of eight years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them (available for at least 105% of their 2012 salary).
--Players who are not selected in Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft will be made available in Stage 2. Clubs selecting players in Stage 2 will negotiate a new salary with the player.
--Players who remain unselected after Stage 2 will be available to any MLS club on a first come, first serve basis.
Once selected in the Re-Entry Draft, clubs must exercise the option for, or extend a Bona Fide Offer to, all players selected in Stage 1. Players that were out of contract may either accept or reject the Bona Fide Offer. Should a player reject the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS. Players with option years left on their contract will automatically be added to the drafting club’s roster.
One key element to remember is that though the eligible player list was released today, teams are still able to negotiate with players up until a temporary roster freeze at 5pm ET on Dec. 6. As such, there is a good chance that there will be some alterations to the list between now and Friday.
Draft order is determined by reverse order of finish at the end of the 2012 season which means Portland will have the #3 overall pick. Once a team elects to pass on their draft slot, they are finished for the rest of the draft. The draft ends once all teams have passed. For more info on the specifics of Friday, click here.
On a day of lots of comings and goings with the Portland Timbers, new midfielder Will Johnson was pretty excited about his new home:
Thank you to the Portland Timbers for allowing me to come to the team of my choice. I will repay your investment handsomely and can't wait!!
— William Johnson (@WillJohnson08) December 3, 2012
The first time I played in Portland I dreamed of playing there. My dream is now reality and my family and I are extremely grateful! #excited
— William Johnson (@WillJohnson08) December 3, 2012
As Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson put it in today's announcement, "his attitude is infectious."
The end of the 2012 MLS season draws nigh as the LA Galaxy host the Houston Dynamo in tomorrow's MLS Cup. A rematch of last season's final, this version presents plenty of drama.
Tune in at 1:30pm PT on ESPN to find out. Have your say on Twitter with hashtag #MLSCup.
Looking for a place to watch? The Timbers Army are hosting a viewing party to benefit AC Portland at Alberta Substation. Suggested donation of $5 gets you in with things getting rolling around 1pm.
While the US Women's National team was busy last night at JELD-WEN Field tallying up 5 goals in their win over the Republic of Ireland, the US U-17's have been busy this week at the Nike International Friendlies in Florida.
Yesterday, the Yanks played to a thrilling 4-4 draw against Brazil and Timbers U-16 midfielder Rubio Rubin--who's been training at the US U-17 Residency Program--was particularly busy with two goals and two assists.
Backheels, throughballs and more. Rubio was busy.
Now that Caleb Porter's time at the University of Akron is drawing to a close, Marla Ridenour, a sports columnist with the Akron Beacon Journal, sat down with soon-to-be new Portland Timbers head coach to ask him about his time with the Zips, his plans for Portland, and why he made the big move west.
In short, he was looking for a new rush.
The turning point came when he coached the US U-23s national team last spring.
“It gave me a taste of that rush and it’s unlike anything else,” Porter said Wednesday during a half-hour interview in his UA office. “There’s more pressure, but there’s more reward, too. I like that. I like a challenge. I’m not afraid of pressure.
“Even the rush of having to finesse the players, the management. I need that. I need to wake up every day feeling nervous, almost like I’ve got to be at my best, otherwise I get bored. It was very different the way I was feeling; it was like when I came here seven years ago.”
It's an excellent read to learn more into the insight of the new Timbers coach and what makes him tick as well as what his hopes for the future are.
“I try to be the best I can be. I try not to give a day away. I try not to slip,” he said. “In some ways it’s a madness, but that’s the way that I live. I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and think, ‘I wasn’t good today.’ I try to instill that in my players.
“I’m very uncomfortable being comfortable. I want to grow, I want to get better, I want to push myself, I want to be challenged, I want to feel pressure, I want to wake up every day knowing I have to be at my best. That’s what makes me tick.”
Go read the whole thing at Ohio.com and check out the photo album of Porter in his UA of Akron office as well.
Though perhaps not quite as popular as the addictive FIFA 13--at least not in the US--Sega's Football Manager has it's very dedicated followers. A complete front office simulation game, Football Manager lets the user be the coach, technical director, and everything in-between to control all aspects of your favorite side.
For one such VERY dedicated and talented player of the game, he received the ultimate opportunity. FC Baku in the Azerbaijani Premier League turned over their head coaching duties to 21-year old Vugar Guloglan oglu Huseynzade, a young man with no head coaching experience other than what he has learned while playing Football Manager.
As stated by sports business contributor Jed Hughes on Bleacher Report:
“Well, there’s a lot of pain in that locker room over there, a lot of emotion. I feel the same. I don’t think this is anything we saw coming.”
Those were the words of an emotional University of Akron head coach Caleb Porter following his Zips' suprise 5-4 loss on penalties to Creighton in the 2012 NCAA College Cup third round match at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
Tied 1-1 after 90 minutes via an Akron 12th minute goal from 2012 Zips breakout star Reinaldo Brenes and a Creighton 83rd minute equalizer from Timo Pitter, neither team was able to find another goal after the two overtime periods. Despite outshooting the Bluejays 31-11 for the match and 11-2 in the extra periods, the Zips could not pull out the win. Their best chance came in the first overtime period when Akron was given a penalty after a Creighton handball in the box. Zips captain Scott Caldwell struck the ball well only to be foiled by a strong save from Creighton's keeper.
It was a surprising and abrupt end not only to the Zips’ incredible season but also to Porter’s seven years in Akron.
Though the match meant the end of this phase of Porter’s career and he will be met by an eager Timbers fan base excited for his time to begin in Portland, it was a loss that was definitely felt hard.
To put Porter’s accomplishments at UA in perspective, here’s some numbers to consider:
-He finished his Akron career with a seven-year record of 123-18-17
-During his watch, Akron posted the highest winning percentage among all Division I schools
-Porter led the Zips to the school's first team national championship in any sport in 2010 and became one of the fastest coaches in NCAA history to reach 100 career wins in 2011
-The Zips' 18 wins in 2012 included 16 shutouts
-Akron allowed just eight goals in 22 matches this year
Needless to say, Porter leaves behind a formidable legacy. The Akron Beacon Journal has a nice recap of the match as well as a photo gallery of the difficult night in Akron.
But Porter wasn’t the only Timbers connection in the match. The 12th seeded Creighton side that beat the Zips featured two Timbers U-23s players in senior co-captain Andrew Ribeiro—who assisted on the game-tying goal and converted his penalty kick in the shootout—as well US U-20s defender Eric Miller. The Bluejays now move on to face 4th seeded UConn.
That duo, along with Louisville’s Brock Granger, are the only remaining Timbers U-23s left in the tournament. The Cardinals eliminated Northwestern 2-1 on Sunday and next take on 2nd seeded Maryland in the Elite Eight.
For a full bracket of the tournament, visit NCAA.com.