The Portland Timbers’ renovation project shifted into high gear on Monday, with the team adding a pair of Major League Soccer veterans while saying goodbye to five players from their 2012 roster.
The most significant of a series of roster moves was the acquisition of midfielder Will Johnson from Real Salt Lake.
“Will is a proven player in MLS and has experience winning an MLS Cup championship,” Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson said in announcing the trade. “He will be a key piece moving forward and brings a winning mentality that we feel will be very important to our culture; he is mentally tough and his attitude is infectious. He is also extremely versatile in our system.”
The other addition was outside back Michael Harrington, who has played six seasons for Sporting Kansas City.
Harrington, 26, figures to have ample opportunity to earn a spot in the lineup. The Timbers on Monday traded away right back Kosuke Kimura and center back Eric Brunner. Portland also declined to re-sign Lovel Palmer and Steve Purdy. Also, though no official announcement was made, tweets from defender Steven Smith and from Timbers owner Merritt Paulson indicated that Smith will not return to Portland.
The acquisition of the 25-year-old Johnson appears to be a case of mutual admiration. Johnson, a Toronto native who has played in 31 games for the Canadian national team, said via Twitter that the Timbers were his first choice among the trade options.
“The first time I played in Portland I dreamed of playing there. My dream is now reality and my family and I are extremely grateful!” Johnson tweeted.
In another tweet, Johnson said, “Thank you to the Portland Timbers for allowing me to come to the team of my choice. I will repay your investment handsomely and can’t wait!!”
Johnson — who is still young for a player who has played six seasons in MLS — brings the ability to play multiple positions along with a mental toughness to a youthful Timbers roster that has lacked a consistent take-charge presence in the middle of the field.
Landing Johnson was the last of a series of player moves announced on Monday — the first day MLS teams could announce roster moves after the 2012 season ended on Saturday with the Los Angeles Galaxy winning the MLS Cup.
Harrington, the Timbers’ other Monday addition, was the No. 3 overall pick by Kansas City in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft. Harrington is among Kansas City’s career leaders in regular-season games played, starts (128) and minutes played (11,633).
Significant roster changes have been anticipated for the Timbers with Caleb Porter taking over as the club’s head coach. Porter, who recently completed his final season coaching Akron University, is expected to be in Portland in mid-December.
Among Monday’s moves for Portland was the acquisition of the MLS homegrown player rights to rights to one of Porter’s Akron defenders, sophomore Bryan Gallego.
The move means the Timbers will have the first opportunity to sign Gallego to a MLS contract.
Also on Monday, MLS released a preliminary list of players made available for Friday’s re-entry draft.
Among those listed was Portland’s Rodney Wallace, but the team has until 2 p.m. PST on Thursday to negotiate a new deal with the midfielder/defender.