PORTLAND — The remaking of the Portland Timbers got real on Monday.
The team with the new head coach and significant new faces gathered at Jeld-Wen Field for the first training session of 2013, and the overriding theme was commitment.
New coach Caleb Porter said he was excited to finally be coaching the Timbers five months after he was named the coach.
“I’m the most alive when I’m in the locker room and on the field,” Porter said. “Without those things I have no identity.”
The identity of Porter’s Timbers will begin to form in the six weeks that lead up to the Timbers season opener on March 3 against the New York Red Bulls.
“The tone I set in the locker room prior to coming out here is that we’re going to have very clear goals,” the coach said. “We have a vision of what we’re going to do, and we have a methodology of how we’re going to do it.”
In building Akron University into a national power, Porter developed teams known for entertaining, possession-oriented soccer.
With that vision, Porter has overseen some significant roster turnover since the end of 2012.
In acquiring midfielder Will Johnson, defender Michael Harrington and forward Ryan Johnson, Porter added three MLS veterans.
“I was excited about every single one of the transactions that went down, said Jack Jewsbury, the team’s captain during Portland first two MLS seasons.
The latest moves came Monday, when the Timbers announced completion of deals with right back Ryan Miller and forward Jose Valencia. Miller, 28, played the last four seasons in Sweden after failing to catch on with Columbus or DC United out of Notre Dame.
“He’s a box-to-box outside back, which in our system is important,” Porter said. “We need guys who can get up and down the flank and provide width in the attack, but also be honest and disciplined defensively.”
Right back was a position of need for the Timbers, with second-year player Ryan Kawulok the only other natural right back on the roster. Late last season, Jewsbury played there some, and other players — including Brent Richards — did some training at right back.
Valencia has been signed to a two-year contract. The 21-year-old Colombian joined the Timbers a year ago, but missed the season with a knee injury.
Not on the Jeld-Wen turf Monday were midfielder Franck Songo’o or forward Kris Boyd. Porter said only that the team is “working through” both player’s situations. Presumably, that means solving contract puzzles, including the anticipated buy-out of Boyd’s contract.
Two players who expressed excitement over getting new starts were forward Ryan Johnson and midfielder Will Johnson.
Ryan Johnson played at Oregon State and said he jumped at the chance to move from Toronto FC to Portland.
“(Porter) knows that I can fit in a lot of different systems and that’s one of the reasons he’s brought me here,” he said.
Will Johnson, who comes from a winning culture at Real Salt Lake where he started 95 games over the last four years, hopes to be a leader in the midfield — and off the field — for Portland.
“Winning games in this league is extremely difficult. Winning consistently is even harder,” Will Johnson said. “I’d like to bring, first and foremost, the mentality to training — just understanding that nobody’s going to give you anything in this league.”