PORTLAND, Ore. — It's been a busy few days for four of the newest Timbers.
Since flying into Portland on Tuesday, Eric Brunner, Adam Moffat, Peter Lowry and Rodney Wallace – all obtained on Nov. 24 through the Expansion Draft or, in Wallace's case, via trade – have undergone a whirlwind tour and have spent time getting acquainted with their new organization and city.
If any of them feels as though they are taking a leap of faith by joining Portland’s first-year MLS club, none of them admit to having any reservations.
“It’s definitely exciting, especially in a place like Portland, where soccer means a lot to the people,” said Wallace, a former member of D.C. United who is moving to the West Coast for the first time. “It’s a chance to build something new, to be here from the beginning. We want to win some games and be part of history.”
The players spent time checking out housing options in the city’s Pearl District, visited the PGE Park construction site and went out to dinner with owner Merritt Paulson, general manager Gavin Wilkinson, head coach John Spencer and other team personnel.
[inline_node:324772]On Wednesday, they were introduced to media and select fans at a new Timbers retail shop, and on Thursday they modeled the team’s new kits before a big, enthusiastic crowd in an airplane hangar at Portland International Airport.
Between now and early January, all four will tie up loose ends, prepare for a move and get ready for the start of training camp.
Brunner said coming to Portland doesn’t feel like a risk.
“Not if you look at the way Portland’s been run in the past,” he said. “The team has been established, from the 1970s [NASL] and the USL. This is a great team with a great owner, great coaching staff and a great front office.”
Lowry echoed his teammate's sentiments.
“What we’re learning is there’s an incredible buzz in this city,” he said. “We’re going to have a great stadium ... and a young, exciting team is slowly getting put together.”
No one can be sure whether the nucleus of the new team arrived this week, or whether other additions will steal the spotlight next spring. But what is clear is that the Timbers offer a blank slate and a new opportunity to shine.
“We all want to be the [the face] of the franchise and we want to win together,” Wallace said. “It’s something completely new. I’m ready for the challenge.”
There are a few built-in connections that help the players feel comfortable from the beginning. Brunner and Moffat were Columbus Crew teammates and roomed together on road trips; Brunner and Lowry roomed together at the MLS Combine; and Moffat shares Scottish roots with his new coach.
Still, no one thinks that Portland will be a bed of roses.
“Obviously, there’s going to be growing pains with a new team trying to get the roster sorted out,,” Brunner said, “but that’s not stuff we [players] can handle, that’s all for the front office. We just go out, do our job, play for the fans and hopefully win games and bring trophies to a team that wants to win.”