BEAVERTON, Ore. – Since coming to the Rose City, Caleb Porter has put his stamp on the Portland Timbers by fielding a team of mostly veteran players who have proven themselves in MLS.
But in the Timbers' last two games, he hasn’t hesitated in handing a big role to one of the club’s youngest players. Alvas Powell, a 19-year-old Jamaican international defender who signed recently with Portland on loan from Jamaican Premier League side Portmore United FC for the remainder of the 2013 season, got his first MLS start Aug. 3 against the Vancouver Whitecaps. And he came on as a second-half substitute in last week’s US Open Cup semifinal match against Real Salt Lake.
Partially due to injury and partially due to a lack of a true right back, where Powell played in both games, he joins another youngster on the Timbers’ backline in 21-year-old Andrew Jean-Baptiste, a second-year pro from the University of Connecticut.
“He wasn’t perfect, there were some little things he needs to correct positioning-wise,” Porter said of Powell. “But again, if you look at our backline, we had a 19-year-old kid and a 21-year-old kid, where two of our four are young guys, I think it bodes well for our future. So I think he’s a guy who we will continue to bring along.”
Powell has featured for the Reggae Boyz in their last three 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, United States and Honduras. He made his senior international debut last December during the 2012 Caribbean Cup and has five caps.
He also recently captained the Jamaica Under-20 national team to a quarterfinal finish in the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in February.
And, of course, his athleticism and versatility is perfect for Porter’s attacking style of play.
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“He brings more of a prototypical outside back in the system that we want to play,” Porter said. “Where he can go box to box, bomb on, get forward, bring width in the attack and getting back. And with his athleticism, he’s a good one-v-one defender.”
Powell certainly didn’t shy away form the big stage in his MLS debut, which happened to come in front of a frenzied sold-out crowd at JELD-WEN Field in a Cascadia Cup match against the Whitecaps. Powell had a shot and committed two fouls, including one early in the match on midfielder Brad Rusin that ruffled a few feathers in what would be a very physical match.
And with a slew of important matches ripe with playoff implications coming up for the Timbers, starting with Saturday’s home match against FC Dallas (11 pm ET, watch on MLS Live), Powell won’t get much of a chance to ease his way into things.
“I thought he did well; he’s just a 19-year-old kid,” Porter said. “He showed he can go into a game with a lot at stake, and I thought he did a good job.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.