PORTLAND, Ore. — There was a very good reason behind the decision to hire John Spencer in August, two months before the conclusion of the Portland Timbers’ final season as a USSF Division-2 Pro League team.
Spencer, a former assistant coach with the Houston Dynamo since 2006, spent those early months evaluating talent and figuring out which players he thought could move up and thrive at the MLS level.
On Wednesday, the Timbers announced the signing of four players from the previous organization. Midfielders Kalif Alhassan and James Marcelin and defenders Mamadou “Futty” Danso and Kevin Goldthwaite have joined a roster that now has 15 players. (Nine players have signed contracts, six others were acquired through the Expansion Draft or a related trade).
[inline_node:321244]None of the four is a surprise. Three other former Timbers players – Ryan Pore, Bright Dike and Steve Cronin – have also been elevated. All seven of them are, at the least, familiar to the city’s soccer fans and most of them also fit the mold that the MLS organization prizes: Young, talented, with room to grow.
“We brought Spencer in for a reason,” Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson said. “He was able to see the [second-division] team day in and day out. We knew that John needed to watch some of these players play, and he believes they’re more than capable of being successful as MLS players.”
Spencer indicated as much in a news release the club sent out on Wednesday announcing the four new signings.
“The four players we’ve added today can play at the next level in Major League Soccer,” Spencer said. “It doesn’t matter which division you’ve played in previously, if you’re good enough, you’re good enough. I think these guys have the ability to make an impact at the next level.”
It didn’t hurt former Timbers players that their old coach, Wilkinson, was bumped up to the front office. Wilkinson certainly informed Spencer about the players but said he backed off the decision-making process.
“Honestly, we tried to give every [former Timbers] player the benefit of the doubt,” Wilkinson said.
And some of the remaining players, theoretically, could get yet another look when the Timbers hold an invite-only player combine Jan. 29-30 at Ventura, Calif. The combine is open to players 18 or older with collegiate or professional experience.
“We’re looking at every player possible,” Wilkinson said. “There are players that crop up from all over the world and it’s impossible to know about all of them. I’m hopeful that we find one or two people out of the tryout that can help us.”
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