Richards, Timbers set for Jeld-Wen debut

Portland hosting preseason tournament

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter



Portland Timbers soccer

Preseason: San Jose at Portland, 7:30 p.m. Monday at Jeld-Wen Field. Also: Chivas USA vs. AIK, 5 p.m.

Radio: AM 750, The Game.

Brent Richards will find out sometime before kickoff Monday if he will be in the lineup when the Portland Timbers make their 2012 debut at Jeld-Wen Field with a preseason match against the San Jose Earthquakes.

But the Camas native understands that every day of his rookie season in Major League Soccer will provide opportunities to improve.

“This year is definitely going to be a good development year for me,” Richards said.

Richards isn’t expected to see much first-team time once the regular season starts. But he said the first month of training as a professional has not brought anything unexpected.

For Richards’ team, this week presents some important opportunities for preparation as the Timbers’ March 12 season opener creeps closer. Today, Portland takes on San Jose at 7:30 p.m. On Thursday, Chivas USA is the opponent. On Sunday, Sweden’s AIK will provide the last warmup competition for the Timbers.

The team is without three players who are away on international assignments, and newly signed midfielder Franck Songo’o is reportedly awaiting visa clearance. Also, several players including newly signed Designated Player Kris Boyd, are nursing minor injuries from training camp.

While the coaching staff has had a month of training to sort out lineups and roles for different players, the games this week figure to be significant as dress rehearsals for everyone available.

Richards played 140 minutes while participating in three of the Timbers four preseason games played in Carson, Calif., where the team posted three wins and a draw.

“It was definitely a big challenge,” Richards said of his first MLS game experience. “It was good to get my feet wet, though. I struggled some and had some success, too.”

After playing primarily as a forward during his years at the University of Washington, Richards has seen time playing a wide midfield position, a spot that requires more end-to-end running and more defensive responsibility.

“I actually liked it,” he said.

Richards said he has handled the physical demands of professional soccer. But he has a lot of work to do on his game.

“My game isn’t where it needs to be to play at this level,” he said. “A lot of my focus right now is on improving my touch and my passing.”

Monday’s game follows a match between Chivas USA and the Swedish side AIK that kicks off at 5 p.m. Tickets are available. The three-game preseason tournament is part of the season-ticket package, so attendance is expected to be strong for the games.