PORTLAND, Ore. – It has been a whirlwind ride for Jake Gleeson, who moved to Portland a year ago with an eye on becoming the Timbers’ third goalkeeper when the club made the jump to MLS.
It didn’t take him long to go from three to one. In just the second game of the season, 20-year-old Gleeson made his MLS debut by playing the second half against Toronto. He subbed into the game for the injured Adin Brown, who himself was deputizing for Troy Perkins.
Three days later, Gleeson played the entire game and logged a clean sheet in Portland’s 2-0 victory over Chivas USA in a US Open Cup play-in game.
“I’ve enjoyed being pushed in,” said Gleeson, a native of New Zealand. “John [Spencer, head coach] has a lot of confidence in me and I have a lot of confidence in myself. I think this is the level I should be playing at.”
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Portland score late, drop Chivas USA
Gleeson has played well. The first save he made against Toronto was an MLS Save of the Week nominee. The 6-foot-4 stopper was probably even better against Chivas USA, making one save and smothering a one-vs.-one opportunity at the top of the penalty box.
“It’s the first chance I’ve had to go out and show people what I’ve got,” Gleeson said. “I’ve learned a lot this year from Troy and Adin. They’ve been absolutely fantastic. I just try to keep the goalkeeping standard high for the Timbers. I went out and played the best that I can.”
[inline_node:330626]Perkins has missed the start of the season with a knee injury. Brown played the team’s first match at Colorado, but came out at halftime of the Toronto game with a tight hamstring.
Gleeson has stepped up and played well. Last year he played with the Timbers U-23 squad and helped lead the team to a 20-0-0 record and championship of the USL Premier Development League.
Spencer said he was encouraged by Gleeson’s play but also refrained from heaping too much praise on him.
“I think he’s a good goalkeeper and he has a lot to learn,” Spencer said. “I think he has a tremendous future in the game. Only if he keeps his feet on the ground. This morning, I told him everybody’s speaking so highly of you right now. Soccer’s got a great way of coming around and kicking you in the balls. So you’ve got to be ready for dropping one, or a rebound coming off you and someone scoring a goal, because that is generally what happens.”
Gleeson’s learning curve may continue to accelerate if he remains the team’s healthiest option. He moved to Portland almost exactly a year ago. He has had more time than most to gain a feel for the culture of support that follows the Timbers.
And he got to hear it Tuesday night, playing in the rain against Chivas USA. In the second half, Gleeson played right in front of a boisterous section of Timbers Army.
“It was fantastic,” Gleeson said. “Timbers Army is unbelievable. They literally give us their energy. I thought, ‘We’ve got a brick wall behind me.’”