PORTLAND, Ore. – Rodrigo López may not be a well-known name in MLS. But in Portland, he is part of the family – even if he didn’t see one minute of action with the first team during the Timbers' inaugural season in the league last year.
The midfielder was released by Portland during the offseason and is currently in camp with San Jose as a trialist. To both the delight of López and the Timbers most astute fans, he saw a half of action on Thursday night in the Earthquakes scoreless tie against Swedish side AIK on day two of the Portland Tournament at JELD-WEN Field.
“The fans here are great,” López said. “They’ve always been on my side. I think every Timber who goes through here, I think they support them no matter where they go. So it’s nice to come back and play in front of this crowd.”
López didn’t just spend last season with the Portland reserves. The Chivas de Guadalajara youth academy product who also spent three seasons with Chivas USA, was a member of the Timbers USSF Division-2 Pro League side for two years before the club joined MLS. His friendly demeanor and creativity on the field made him a fan favorite.
Before both of San Jose's games on Monday and Thursday, López, known by his nickname “RoRo,” could be seen shaking hands and chatting with fans and stadium employees.
“When I was here, I was treated fairly well,” he said. “Everyone treated us with respect no matter how many minutes you got. It’s a great organization. I’m unlucky to leave, but I’m happy.”
After Portland declined López’s option in December, he caught Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop’s eye in an offseason mini-camp. He was invited to join the team as a trialist this preseason but sprained his MCL early in training.
“I thought he did well,” Yallop said. “He brings a different element to the game that maybe we didn’t have with his little bit of passion and trickery and service off set plays.”
His 45 minutes in the second half against AIK was his most meaningful appearance in an Earthquakes jersey.
His best chance at notching his name in the stat log came in the 72nd minute, when he slotted a nifty pass to forward Cesar Diaz Pizarro, but Pizarro failed to get a touch on it before AIK goalkeeper Ivan Turina cleaned up.
“I’m thankful for the coaches and the organization for giving me a shot with San Jose,” López said. “I just have to prove myself and show them what I’ve got.”
Has he shown enough to earn a spot with San Jose?
“We’ll see,” Yallop said. “We’ll have to make a decision and see how it goes.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com. Twitter @dan_itel