PORTLAND, Ore. – When the Portland Timbers left for their 10-day preseason training camp in Southern California, it seemed clear they had something special in trialist Franck Songo’o.
And on their first day back at a soggy JELD-WEN Field on Friday, the Timbers now know Songo’o will be a part of their 2012 campaign.
Four assists in four preseason games resulting in three wins and a tie was just the icing on the cake leading up to the Thursday announcement that the Cameroonian midfielder had been signed.
“Every man and his dog has been saying we should sign him,” Timbers head coach John Spencer told reporters after Friday’s training session. “We knew we should sign him. That’s what we’ve been trying to do the last few weeks. We realized he was a good player. We’re really, really happy to have him.”
Spencer said the club got word from Songo’o’s agent that the winger, who played with Spanish side Albacete last season, was looking for a new opportunity. And after seeing in person what he was capable of, Spencer was immediately impressed.
“He’s just a good soccer player,” Spencer said. “He can play on the left or the right. He very rarely gives the ball away. He’s going to be productive. He’s been good the last three or four games.”
Songo’o certainly is no stranger to high-level play. The 24-year-old spent his formative years in the Barcelona youth system, and started his professional career in the English Premier League with Portsmouth FC in 2005 before moving onto Spain’s La Liga.
Songo’o said he wanted to play a larger role with a team after seeing sporadic playing time over the past two seasons.
“It’s a young league, but I think it’s a very good one and it’s coming out with some really good players,” Songo’o said of MLS. “And I think the level is really high, so it’s really nice to play here. I haven’t played in very many games, and I wanted to play in as many as possible.”
He said he wasn’t surprised by his seamless transition, especially after seeing in his first few days with the team that the Timbers' style of play suits him.
“I saw the way they played, and that’s kind of the way I like to play also,” he said. “It’s good football, so it’s pretty easy to get along with the guys.”
Captain and fellow midfielder Jack Jewsbury is certainly glad to have Songo'o on his side.
“He’s someone I’ll continue to give the ball to and let him run at guys because I wouldn’t want him running at me if I was one of the wide backs,” Jewsbury said. “He’s not only a good player on the field, but he’s a good guy in the locker room and some of the guys have enjoyed hanging out with him. From day one, I could tell he had some special qualities about him, and in the four games we played in LA, he was a difference-maker in all of them.”
Dan Itel coves the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.