Timbers seek foothold in Clark County

Team plans for training center in Vancouver

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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Major League Soccer has not yet defined the boundaries of the Portland Timbers’ reach for home-grown players, but the first-year MLS franchise is moving forward with plans to include Clark County in a program for the region’s elite youth soccer players.

The Timbers plan to create six training centers — one of them in Vancouver — to develop youth players as a building block for teams that will participate in the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy League.

Mike Smith, who is in charge of building the Portland Timbers Development Academy, said each of the six centers likely will invite about 20 players in an age group to participate.

The target is to open those training centers in the fall by selecting boys in the under-12 through under-15 age groups.

The Timbers are teaming up with the Oregon Youth Soccer Association by supporting its Olympic Development Program. The player pool for the OYSA’s boys ODP teams in the U-12 to U-15 divisions will be selected from the six training centers.

Beginning in late spring 2012, the Timbers will form teams to play in the under-16 and under-18 U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy League.

The academy program is not designed to replace any youth soccer clubs, Smith said. In addition to tryouts, Smith said the team will scout area youth soccer programs and reach out to people, including members of the Hispanic community, who are not involved in youth soccer programs.

“We’re trying to do things right,” said Smith, who has worked in coaching development with the OYSA. He said that each of the six Timbers training centers will have its own coaches.

Smith said the Sounders FC Academy, which is two years old, provides a good blueprint. He said he is friends with many of the coaches within the Sounders program.

“They’ve done a superb job, and laid the groundwork for how building a program should be done,” Smith said.