MLS Newsstand - June 27, 2018

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Look at the math, and Sounders’ match vs. Portland is more than a rivalry — it’s do or die
Seattle Times – June 27, 2018
 
Piling on the usual intrigue surrounding any Sounders match against rival Portland is that this next game could determine the season.
 
Few players or coaches would admit to a Major League Soccer season being over by July 1, but the Sounders know their math and see the numbers in the standings aren’t adding up well for them. And unless they secure a home victory Saturday against the Timbers at CenturyLink Field, the odds of the Sounders missing the playoffs for the first time will become overwhelming.
 
Throw in the fact that Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei is in concussion protocol and questionable for Saturday’s game, and the pressure on the home side is infinitely greater than it is for the fifth-place Timbers.
 
“Obviously, it’s a big game for a lot of different reasons,’’ Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said Tuesday. “Number one, it’s our arch-rival. Number two, we need to collect points.’’
 
That point thing is a grave concern; even for die-hard optimists who believe this team is capable of repeating its turnaround of two seasons ago. In 2016, the last-place Sounders rallied in July, made the playoffs and won the MLS Cup.
 
But replicating that would become near impossible without the Sounders compiling a few more points in a hurry. At best, the team will have 16 games remaining by the time Peruvian striker Raul Ruidiaz and other potential midseason help arrives in late July.
 
Two seasons ago, the Sounders fired coach Sigi Schmid, added Nicolas Lodeiro and went 8-2-4 down the stretch to squeak into the postseason. That was a two-points-per-game average, which, if replicated over the final 16 matches this season would equate to 32 points over that final stretch.
 
Problem is, the Sounders have only 12 points in their first 14 matches. So, even replicating their 2016 pace once help arrives — over the final 16 games this time instead of 14 — only leaves them 44 points for the season unless they do something in the four matches remaining before any reinforcements arrive.
 
Based on current play that has No. 7 Houston on a 48-point pace, it could take 50 points to guarantee the last of six Western Conference playoff spots. Anything less leaves too much to chance.
 
To reach that, the Sounders would need to win two of their next four games, then pull off a still-unlikely repeat of their 2016 clip over the final 16 contests. One of the four upcoming matches is against woeful Colorado, but two others are far more daunting on the road at Atlanta and New England.
 
In other words, the season might be riding on the home game vs. Portland.
 
Midfielder Cristian Roldan says the Sounders are confident enough that they can go on a second-half run. The trick will be staying close enough in the interim.
 
“There’s a lot at stake,’’ Roldan said. “We’ve said that for the last couple of weeks.’’
 
The difference between this year’s squad, the one two years ago and even last year’s MLS Cup finalist is the Sounders are no longer dominant at home. They are 2-3-2 at CenturyLink Field – averaging 1.14 points per game compared with 2.24 at home last year and 1.94 two years ago.
 
That makes a repeat of the 2016 stretch run far less likely. And it raises the stakes for the Sounders to exceed expectations these next four games.
 
“We have so much to lose at this point,’’ Roldan said. “We’re at the bottom of the table, and if we continue to lose then Portland can just laugh at us. We have to continue to fight together as a team and realize that it’s survival mode.
 
“We have to win games, and in order to do that you have to play these big teams and beat them up.’’
 
It’s been the Sounders getting beat up most of the year, and they’ll enter this one possibly missing Frei and likely without injured right back Kelvin Leerdam again. Schmetzer hopes backup Jordan McCrary is healthy enough to start so Roldan can return to his regular midfield spot after spelling at right back last weekend against Chicago.
 
The Sounders were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw after allowing the Fire to pounce on numerous defensive lapses the final 20 minutes. Only Frei’s acrobatics before a last-minute injury spared them a devastating home loss, and it’s unlikely the banged-up goalkeeper can repeat such a performance if he even gets on the field.
 
“For all the chances we gave up in the latter part of the game, I thought through 68 or 70 minutes the game was good,’’ Schmetzer said, adding “the way the game kind of unfolded, it wasn’t great. We watched film on that, about how the defense needs to react. How the forwards and midfielders need to react to try to defend better.’’
 
And they need to figure it out fast before they run out of enough games with which to salvage the season.
 
 
Atlanta United acquires Remedi
Atlanta Journal-Constitution – June 26, 2018
 
Atlanta United has signed Argentinian midfielder Eric Remedi in a move made following the loss of Darlington Nagbe.
 
Remedi won’t be eligible to play for the Five Stripes until the transfer window opens on July 10. Financial terms of the multi-year deal weren’t disclosed. Remedi was acquired with Targeted Allocation Money pending the receipt of his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate.
 
Remedi, 23, played for Banfield in Argentina since 2015. He can play as a central midfielder or centerback. He likely wouldn’t be considered a like-for-like replacement for the injured Nagbe.
 
Atlanta United has been pursuing a central midfielder since January when it sold Carlos Carmona to Colo-Colo in Chile.
 
Remedi’s first game could be July 15 versus Seattle.
 
Remedi, right-footed and 5-feet-5, seems to fit the mold of players that Atlanta United has pursued in South America to great success such as Miguel Almiron, Franco Escobar, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Hector Villaba and Ezequiel Barco - young and full of potential.
 
Atlanta United leads MLS in points (34) and goals scored (34). It will host Orlando City on Saturday.
 
Atlanta United has until July 10 to figure out how to fit Remedi into the roster. The team’s 30-man roster is full and it has used its seven slots for international players. The team has worked with several of its international players to acquire green cards in the past, which clears an international slot. The internationals on the roster are occupied by Almiron, Barco, Escobar, Jon Gallagher, Gonzalez Pirez, Julian Gressel and Josef Martinez.
 
The club could loan one of those players, likely Gallagher, to Atlanta United 2 for the season. Doing so would free up an international slot and roster spot.
 
Remedi made his professional debut in June 2015 versus Sarmiento and has made 68 appearances across all competitions in three years. During the 2017-18 season, Remedi started 21 league matches, helping Banfield to a mid-table finish. Playing as a defensive midfielder, Remedi helped anchor one of the league’s top defenses, as only six teams allowed fewer goals than Banfield (24) during the 27-game season. During the 2016-17 season, he made 23 starts in 24 appearances as Banfield finished in fifth place to qualify for the Copa Libertadores second stage. He also started all three matches in the Copa Argentina where Banfield reached the Round of 16.
 
 
Milford confirmed: Here are the FCC facility details and what it means for Clermont County
Cincinnati Inquirer – June 26, 2018
 
The long speculated FC Cincinnati training facility in Clermont County is much closer to reality, but Tuesday night revealed what it may mean for the county financially.
 
The Clermont Convention and Visitors Bureau plans to ask the county commissioners to enact an additional 1 percent lodging tax to help make an FCC training facility in Milford a reality.
 
It’s a request that has the full backing of Milford Council.
 
If implemented, the additional 1 percent lodging tax would be placed on hotel rooms, visitors bureau board of directors Chairman Jim Comodeca said during a special Milford Council meeting Tuesday night. Clermont County already has a 6 percent lodging tax. A portion of the tax goes to the communities where the hotels are located and a portion goes to the visitor's bureau which helps to grow the county’s economy through tourism.
 
With an additional 1 percent, the visitor's bureau is willing to commit those dollars to make the FCC training facility happen, Comodeca said.
 
The lodging tax pitch, along with a presentation about the proposed training facility, is expected to be made during the Clermont County Commissioners meeting 10 a.m. Wednesday.
 
Tuesday afternoon, FCC announced its plans to build a training facility in Expressway Park in Milford. In its release, the club indicated that all construction will be privately financed by the club.
 
Tuesday evening, FCC President and General Manager Jeff Berding shared those plans with Milford Council.
 
The club proposes building a $30 million training complex which will include three soccer fields and training facilities along with an academy. The Expressway Park site offers accessibility, visibility, proximity to major youth soccer leagues and land to meet current and future needs, Berding said. The site can also be quickly made ready for use.
 
The club expects to be on the field practicing in about nine months, so the fields will be made ready first, Berding said. If all goes as planned, the team building could be ready by July.
 
Appropriate zoning for a sports complex is already in place for the Expressway Park property, Milford City Manager Michael Doss said. Milford is eager to welcome the club to the city not only for the economic opportunities it brings to the community but also to be a part of the excitement the club is generating in the region.
 
Previous reporting: In a culmination of a long effort by club officials and government types, FC Cincinnati is locating its training facility in Milford, providing all local government approvals are granted.
 
Details of the plan will be shared during a special Milford Council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 745 Center St.
 
Ahead of the meeting, FC Cincinnati issued a news release outlining its plans for the training facility proposed for the current site of Expressway Park, Lila Avenue near Interstate-275, softball complex and adjoining property – nearly 24 acres
 
"We’re excited to announce our state-of-the-art training complex in Milford,”  FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding said in a statement. “We’ve been searching for the right location in the Greater Cincinnati area – including Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties, as well as counties in Northern Kentucky – for two-and-a-half years and this site presents the best opportunity for the growth for our club.
 
“The accessibility of this location – being near major transportation routes and at the center of our youth development radius – gives us the perfect home base as we enter Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2019 and also launch our FCC Youth Academy.”
 
Highlights of FC Cincinnati plans include:
 
Estimated cost, $30 million.
 
Will serve as the base for FC Cincinnati’s soccer operations, including the MLS first team and future FCC Academy’s training and performance activities.three full-size, lighted soccer fields (two grass, one artificial turf), and a goalkeeper-specific training area.
 
A 30,000 square foot multilevel building abutting the fields for FC Cincinnati training complex
 
A 6,500 square foot center for the FCC Academy teams, which have their own practice fields.
 
A 3,000 square foot maintenance facility.
 
The new soccer complex is expected to generate $6.8 million in economic impact in Clermont County from the direct spending of out-of-town visitors who will visit the new facility, local hotels, restaurants and other businesses, according to an economic-impact analysis of the project provided by the Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
 
“This is tremendous news not just for soccer fans, but for the entire Clermont County community,” said visitor’s bureau President Jeff Blom. “The FC training complex will attract visitors who will eat at our restaurants, shop at local businesses, stay at hotels, and visit attractions throughout the county and in other neighboring communities, ultimately generating millions of dollars of economic impact and tax revenue for Milford and all of Clermont County.”
 
The training facility, pending approvals, is expected to be fully operational by July 2019 and all site work is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. The FCC first team will relocate to the complex in January 2019 and will use temporary team facilities until the training complex is completed later in the summer.
 
“The design of the facility is inspired by the mission and values of FC Cincinnati and reflects a progressive, environmentally sustainable, modern aesthetic reflective of the rise of the sport of soccer in America,” Bill Baker, MSA Sport Principal and Owner, said in a statement.
 
“In the planning process, we benchmarked training grounds across the world, including the best in Europe, South America and Asia. The goal of the design is to develop one of the premier and most progressive team facilities in Major League Soccer,” Baker said
 
It's been a long time coming
 
Expressway Park is not the first site FC Cincinnati considered for a practice facility in Clermont County. Initially, the club looked at the old Red Barn property in Batavia along Ohio 32 as a potential site.
 
FC Cincinnati, the Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau and representatives from Milford are scheduled to make a presentation to the Clermont County Board of Commissioners Wednesday morning.
 
The board is not expected to take action, according to spokeswoman Kathleen Williams, but at a future date could approve an additional 1 percent lodging tax to fund construction and maintenance of a professional sports facility. However, the club's release indicates that all construction will be privately financed by FC Cincinnati.
 
The additional tax could also be used by the visitor's bureau to promote travel and tourism related to the sports facility.
 
Action last year by the Ohio legislature cleared the way for the commissioners to impose the additional lodging tax. The inclusion of the lodging tax for Clermont County in Ohio’s operating budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 also led to accusations of secret backroom deals and a federal lawsuit filed by government transparency advocate Chris Hicks.
 
Hicks began questioning the lodging tax last June. He filed the federal lawsuit last October. According to the lawsuit, county officials immediately “began evading Hicks’ requests for records and intentionally omitting (his) statements during” county commissioner meetings.
 
That was done, the lawsuit says, “to frustrate his efforts to obtain information and to silence his criticism on the record.”
 
Hicks efforts also resulted in several opinions by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine who said it was incompatible for a county commissioner and county treasurer to serve on the board for the visitor's bureau. Commissioner David Uible and Treasurer Linda Fraley had served on the board but their terms ended ahead of DeWine's opinion.
 
 
Atlanta's Darlington Nagbe out 2-3 months with groin injury
ESPNFC.com – June 26, 2018
 
Darlington Nagbe will miss the next two to three months with a groin injury, Atlanta United announced on Tuesday.
 
Nagbe, 27, was injured in the second half of Atlanta's 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday. Atlanta's timeline would allow Nagbe to return in the run-up to the playoffs.
 
The attacking midfielder, who has played in every one of Atlanta's game this season, was one of six United players named as MLS All-Stars in the "Fan XI" on Sunday.
 
"Atlanta United today announced that midfielder Darlington Nagbe will miss two-to-three months with a right adductor injury," a club statement said.
 
Atlanta acquired Nagbe from the Timbers in a blockbuster trade in December that saw the team shell out as much as $1.65 million in allocation money for the U.S. international.
 
Julian Gressel or Kevin Kratz could move into Nagbe's place in midfield for Atlanta, which is already without full-back Greg Garza after a shoulder injury.
 
Atlanta also moved to sign a new midfielder on Tuesday, completing a deal for 23-year-old Argentine Eric Remedi from Banfield, who will be eligible to play after the transfer window opens on July 10.
 
 
Zlatan Ibrahimovic included in MLS fans' All-Star XI
Sky Sports – June 25, 2018
 
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been included in MLS' All-Star Fan XI, as voted by the league's supporters.
 
The team, made up largely of Atlanta United players, will take on Juventus in the 2018 MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday 1 August, live on Sky.
 
LA Galaxy striker and Sweden's all-time goal scoring leader, Ibrahimovic is joined in the team by Belgium defender Laurent Ciman, Sporting Kansas City's Graham Zusi and United States international goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who headlines six Atlanta players voted into the Fan XI.
 
The current frontrunner for the 2018 MLS Golden Boot, Atlanta striker Josef Martinez makes his first MLS All-Star appearance.
 
While 10 of the 11 players on the Fan XI are determined by fan voting online, the 11th player is determined through a challenge on EA SPORTS™.
 
Carlos Vela took the top prize, as fans scored more than two million goals for the Los Angeles FC star on video gaming's FIFA 18.
 
2018 MLS All-Star Fan XI: Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan [Atlanta United] Defenders: Michael Parkhurst [Atlanta United], Laurent Ciman [Los Angeles Football Club], Graham Zusi [Sporting Kansas City] Midfielders: Miguel Almiron [Atlanta United], Ezequiel Barco [Atlanta United], Darlington Nagbe [Atlanta United], Diego Valeri [Portland Timbers] Forwards: Josef Martinez (Atlanta United), Zlatan Ibrahimovic [LA Galaxy], Carlos Vela [Los Angeles Football Club]
 
 
Zlatan Ibrahimovic can improve MLS as he brings 'star attention', says Brad Guzan
Sky Sports – June 25, 2018
 
Zlatan Ibrahimovic can help MLS to improve as a competition because of the "star attention" he brings to the league, says Brad Guzan.
 
Ibrahimovic, who has won league titles in Holland, Italy, Spain and France, joined LA Galaxy from Manchester United in March.
 
The 36-year-old is Sweden's all-time record goalscorer, and he has begun his career in the USA in a similar vein, finding the net seven times in his first 11 MLS games.
 
Atlanta goalkeeper Guzan believes the presence of a high-profile player, like Ibrahimovic, in the league is a positive.
 
"He's been great, both on and off the field. He brings star attention - in terms of the attention he draws on the field and the quality that he brings to the Galaxy", said Guzan.
 
"It's important we continue to grow as a league and have players that are not coming at the end of their career and are no longer interested in competing.
 
"We want players who want to help improve the league and continue the upward trend of the sport in the United States."
 
Guzan has been at Atlanta for nearly a year after returning to his native USA from Aston Villa.
 
The Midlands side agonisingly missed out on promotion to the Premier League last season after losing 1-0 to Fulham in the play-off final, but Guzan believes they are well-equipped to go one step further in the coming campaign.
 
He said: "It's always difficult when you finish the season on such a difficult moment to turn around and come back.
 
"But I believe they certainly have the players and the experience to hopefully bounce back and do it again because the club and fan base is absolutely massive.
 
"They deserve to be back in the Premier League and I think a lot of people would be delighted to see them back there."
 
 
Investing in soccer may be wise, says Goldman Sachs investment banking co-head
CNBC – June 26, 2018
 
If you're wealthy enough to buy a National Football League franchise, you might want to consider Major League Soccer instead.
 
According to Gregg Lemkau, co-head of investment banking at Goldman Sachs, the value of NFL teams has been stable but MLS teams are on the rise.
 
"The growth of soccer in the U.S. has actually been quite positive," Lemkau said on "Closing Bell."
 
With the U.S. hosting the World Cup in 2026, Lemkau said the popularity of soccer will continue to expand. The average attendance per game has recently surpassed that of the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association, he added.
 
When it comes to investments, the NFL is one of the most expensive to make. The league has 32 franchises valued at about $2 billion each, according to Lemkau. An MLS team might sell for $500 million now; however, in the long run, its value might catch up with that of the NFL, he said. There are 23 MLS teams.
 
And it's not just soccer. The NBA also may eventually be more valuable than the NFL, with live sports assets remaining highly profitable, said Lemkau.
 
In fact, overall, live sports draw large audiences, attracting advertisers and media companies looking to purchase rights, he added.
 
"Sports rights continues to be the holy grail for media," Lemkau said.
 
 
New NYCFC coach Domènec Torrent credits Guardiola, Vieira and jazz for success
Pro Soccer USA – June 26, 2018
 
ORANGEBURG, N.Y. – New York City FC supporters may want to frequent jazz clubs around the city the rest of the season. Because they may run into the entire team.
 
“Sometimes after the game — if we are very, very happy – we need to go to a jazz club,” new head coach Domènec Torrent said at Tuesday’s training session. “I love jazz music, especially the blues and soul. In New York maybe it’s possible.”
 
Torrent left his alto saxophone behind at his home in Girona, Spain. He’ll have little free time anyway with the all-consuming task of gradually developing his own plan for the boys from the Bronx during the last 18 regular-season Major League Soccer matches. Wednesday was just his fifth day in the United States, following a lengthy Visa process.
 
“My feeling right now is much better,” Torrent said. “It’s very important for a new coach to start with a win, but especially [because] we were able to come back in the game. It’s not easy when you are losing the game 1-0 to a top team.”
 
New York City rallied to defeat Toronto FC 2-1 Sunday.
 
“Don’t forget they are the champions, and they are able to play good football,” he said.
 
The day after his inaugural match with the club, Torrent heard from his friend and colleague the last 11 years – Pep Guardiola, who followed the details of the match on twitter.
 
“Yesterday, he called me,” Torrent said. “He asked, ‘What are you feeling about the team, about the club?’ I said, ‘It’s amazing Pep, everything for now is perfect.’ Before the game he asked, ‘Are you nervous?’ I told him, ‘No Pep, you know me.’”
 
Guardiola has described Torrent, his assistant at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, as “the other half of me.” Torrent has referred to Guardiola as “family” and “like a brother.”
 
“For me, Pep is the best coach ever because he introduced new concepts in the game,” Torrent said. “We changed many things in Manchester City. We were able to break eight records in one year. Every single game is different for Pep, he’s looking for the best way to play the next game and the next game – and I believe in that.”
 
Like his predecessor, Patrick Vieira, Torrent reportedly signed a three-year contract with NYCFC. He was quick to credit Vieira, the new OGC Nice coach, for his own successful debut in New York.
 
“We are able to win not for me – because I had training one day,” Torrent said. “We are able to win for Patrick Vieira, who has been training two or more years here. This win is for Patrick as well.”
 
 
Orlando City searching for win to turn around rough season
Pro Soccer USA – June 26, 2018
 
ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik still remembers when the Lions’ season turned in 2017.
 
After a hot start, Orlando City finished the year with the worst MLS record in club history. Things turned once the calendar flipped to May – much like this season – and the team never recovered.
 
The Lions (6-9-1, 19 points) are looking to recover before this season gets away from them.
 
Orlando City fell out of the playoff picture after losing to the Montreal Impact, the club’s seventh consecutive loss in league play. A win from the Philadelphia Union and a draw from the Chicago Fire meant a drop to eighth place for Orlando City, two spots below the playoff line.
 
“These times are tough,” Bendik said. “We need to dig in, roll our sleeves up and get ourselves out of it. We’re the ones who put ourselves there so we’re the ones who can get ourselves out.
 
“Last year, you know, it wasn’t as bad, but after that start of the season, we struggled through a very similar patch of the year. I don’t think we won a game in May. You need to learn from that and, like I said, get yourselves out of it.”
 
Plus, Orlando City is in the middle of a search for its next head coach. Club CEO Alex Leitão on Saturday said he still expects to name a new head coach this week.
 
“That adds a little bit of a distraction, but no matter who the coach is, it’s still on us as players to give everything that we have, especially right now,” Bendik said.
 
“We need to dig in and roll our sleeves up and get to work. We need to really realize what’s going on here. We need to find a way to win, no matter what it takes.”
 
An Orlando City loss or draw coupled with an Impact win over the San Jose Earthquakes would mean a drop to ninth.
 
Of course, a win over rival Atlanta United could me a jump back into the playoff picture, provided Philadelphia and Chicago both stumble in their respective matches.
 
In fact, striker Dom Dwyer was asked after training on Tuesday if he thinks Orlando City’s season is still salvageable.
 
“What would you say?” he asked. “Have you looked at the table?”
 
He added, “I wouldn’t say it’s over by any means. If we’ve got our own people writing us off like that, then it’s interesting. I wouldn’t say we’re a club like that right now. We have a lot of belief in ourselves and belief that we can turn things around very quickly.”
 
A win is what this club needs to turn things around, said interim coach Bobby Murphy.
 
“That usually turns a losing streak around,” he said with a quick laugh.
 
“It’s just going to take a complete performance. So often, we’ve been so close. It’s going to take everybody playing to their best and playing for the group and getting a break here or there and it can all turn around. That’s what we’re working toward.”
 
A win in league play could be hard to come by in the near future. The Lions get Atlanta United on the road this weekend. That match is followed by LAFC in Los Angeles, Toronto at home, the Columbus Crew in Columbus and a home date with NYCFC.
 
In that stretch of MLS matches, only Toronto is lower than fourth in its conference.
 
Squeezed between the Reds and the Crew is a match against the Philadelphia Union in Open Cup play. 
 
Of course, Orlando City is only focused on this week’s match against Atlanta United in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 
 
“I see it as a huge challenge and a great opportunity to go up there in front of a hostile crowd, a place where we did well last year in that stadium,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, the players will take it as a great opportunity and play with a bit of freedom knowing that nothing’s really expect of them, to go in there and get a result, and sometimes you can surprise people when that happens.”
 
 
How the Union help their foreign-born players make second language a priority
The Athletic – June 27, 2018
 
The​ student bursts into the classroom​ with a gift​ and a trademark smile.
 
“I bring water for my best teacher ever!”​ exclaims Fabinho,​​ the Philadelphia Union’s 33-year-old left back.
 
Sitting at a table are two English language teachers (it’s not clear which of them is the best) along with three of Fabinho’s teammates: Eric Ayuk and Olivier Mbaizo, both from Cameroon, and fellow Brazilian Ilsinho, who’s trying to explain a goal celebration to one of the instructors.
 
To continue reading The Athletic click here
 
 
2017 MLS WORKS Community MVP has used award to Embrace Oregon foster care
MLSsoccer.com – June 27, 2018
 
PORTLAND, Ore.—As voting opens this week in the 2018 MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest presented by Wells Fargo, the ongoing work being done in Portland by 2017 winner Keith Palau and Embrace Oregon continues to brighten the lives of children and improve prospects for families throughout the city and state.
 
A year ago, Palau -- a leader in the Timbers Army who was named Timbers Community MVP after an effort to redecorate foster care and family visitation rooms at the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) offices -- earned the 2017 honor, which came with $25,000 from MLS WORKS and Wells Fargo to donate to Embrace Oregon. The organization efforts to offer volunteering opportunities to the greater community and outreach for prospective foster parents in the area.
 
“This $25,000 will positively impact more than 700 individuals: children in foster care, biological families, foster families and DHS staff,” Palau said.
 
According to Brooke Gray, executive director of Embrace Oregon, receiving the $25,000 donation helped the organization in a number of ways. First, it helped raise awareness of Embrace Oregon in Portland. Gray notes she saw an increase in the inquiries from people interested in volunteering and even getting more information about becoming a foster parent.
 
“It enabled more people to find out about the work Timbers Army and Embrace Oregon are doing in our community, and led to a fun few weeks of social media push,” Gray said.
 
“Financially, the Community MVP Contest provided the funds for Embrace Oregon to increase its bandwidth for children in foster care, to launch a new initiative designed to support foster families beyond the Portland area in 2017/18,” she said, adding: “Undoubtedly, we’re in the midst of a foster care crisis in Oregon.”
 
During the time since earning the award in August 2016, Palau and Embrace Oregon have helped redesign four Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns-themed DHS visitation rooms in the greater Portland area, and distributed a special scarf featuring both teams and the words “You are loved.”
 
Located in no-frills government buildings, the rooms themselves are often bleak, and often not so much decorated as housing a variety of hand-me down furniture, says Palau.
 
From there, Palau and those involved have moved into new ways to help foster families, including bringing several Timbers and Thorns players to two Foster Parents' Night Out gatherings, sponsored by Embrace Oregon, where foster parents can get a much-needed break once a month. The players spent the evening playing with kids. Other joint activities between Embrace Oregon and the Timbers included coffee bar and ice cream social events to support DHS staff.
 
Looking forward, Palau is exploring initiatives to help families who are at risk of losing their children because they are without the means to afford housing, in an effort to prevent those children from entering the foster care system.
 
On a personal note for Palau, going to the 2017 MLS All-Star Game in Chicago and being honored as the MLS WORKS Community MVP was an unforgettable moment.
 
“This whole experience will remain a highlight of my involvement as a Portland Timbers fan, a Timbers Army member, and someone who cares about members of our community who need a little extra love and support," he said. "Thank you to my friends at MLS WORKS and to Wells Fargo for their support and encouragement.”
 
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