PORTLAND, Ore. – Ben Zemanski could plainly see his days as a Chivas USA regular were numbered.
As the Rojiblancos continue their transformation ahead of the 2013 season with the arrival of new head coach José Luis Sánchez Solá, the 24-year-old midfielder (above, right) figured his fourth year in MLS would likely be played elsewhere. So when he got a call earlier this week from Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, who also coached Zemanski at the University of Akron, he couldn’t have been happier.
With his Wednesday trade to Portland, Zemanski was leaving one tenuous situation for something more familiar.
“[Chivas] made it clear the direction of the club and where they wanted to take it long term in the future,” Zemanski said after his first training session with his new team Friday at a sunny JELD-WEN Field. “And I just felt like I didn’t have a place there. And going forward I think I made a better move for my career to get out, and I’m enjoying the opportunity I have here and am looking forward to taking advantage of it.”
Zemanski and Porter certainly have a successful history.
The two teamed for three straight conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances from 2007-09, including a run to the final in Zemanski's final year. He was also teammates with Timbers midfielder/forward Darlington Nagbe for two seasons at Akron.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Zemanski said. “I know [Porter]. I know he’s a passionate and competitive guy and wants to win. I know I want to play for him, and this whole locker room wants to play for him. … Whenever you make a move into a new locker room, it’s definitely nice to have some guys that you’re friends with and talk to on a regular basis. It makes that move and transition a lot easier.”
The 45th overall pick of the 2010 SuperDraft, Zemanski started at least 17 games in his first three seasons. He enjoyed his best season in 2011 with two goals and four assists in 28 games.
He’ll have his work cut out for him if he expects to play a similar role with the Timbers, however. Portland have already acquired two midfielders this offseason who are expected to play key roles in Designated Player Diego Valeri and former Real Salt Lake mainstay Will Johnson. (See all Portland Timbers transactions here.)
“The midfield is definitely a deep midfield, and I definitely think that is a good thing,” Zemanski said. “Whenever you have guys being competitive in practice and working for spots it makes everyone better. So we’ll see how I fit in; I think I can play any spot in the midfield really.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.