It was not the headline offseason move, but early in preseason the signing of right back Alvas Powell looks like a significant move for the Portland Timbers.
In Saturday’s preseason draw against Houston, the 20-year-old Jamaican created problems for the Dynamo on the attack and capably defended. He essentially shut down Houston veteran Brad Davis.
Powell came to Portland in the middle of the 2013 season on loan from Portmore United of Jamaica. Speed and athletic ability were immediately apparent watching the 6-foot Powell work the right wing. But in 2013 and early last season, his decision making sometimes reflected his lack of experience.
By the end of last season he was the established starter at right back. Now, with his mental understanding of his role catching up with his natural speed, Powell looks like a budding star.
“I thought he had a really good end of the (2014) year and looked comfortable, but even more so now in preseason,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said during a Monday teleconference. “He’s really coming to life.”
Part of that comfort is his relationship with Darlington Nagbe on the right side of the field, which Porter said “has really blossomed.”
Such partnerships are critical to effective soccer, Porter said.
“I think they complement each other because Darlington does play as an outside-inside winger,” Porter said, noting that Nagbe will cut inside rather than simply attacking from wide areas. “If you play your winger that way, you need an outside back that’s going to bomb on and provide penetration and width. Alvas does.”
Porter said dynamic wingers who join the attack late are a real challenge for opposing teams. But it’s at the other end of the field — defending — where Powell has grown significantly, according to Porter. The coach said Powell is more mature now, and reads the game much better.
“Part of it’s confidence. Part of it too is he’s picking things up and he’s tactically learning how to position himself,” Porter said. “Sometimes a young player that’s athletic, they want to use their athleticism instead of using their brain. What I’ve noticed with (Powell) is he’s using his speed when he needs to, but he’s using his head and not having to rely on his pace.”
Tuesday’s lineup — The Timbers take on San Jose at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to wrap up their 15-day training camp in Tucson, Ariz. Porter said that the players who started the first two preseason games will not play today against San Jose. For 60 minutes against the Earthquakes, the lineup will feature the players who played the shorter shifts in the first two games, while the other 30 minutes will include six players who did not play in the first two games.
On Monday, Porter said that Omar Cummings, the MLS veteran who is with the Timbers as a trialist and scored their goal against Houston, was being looked at to add depth at forward. Porter said it’s too soon to tell if Cummings is the best fit to provide depth behind Fanendo Adi and Maximiliano Urruti.
“We’ve been looking at that third (forward) option to perhaps provide a little bit of pure pace” and depth, Porter said.
Nikki Marshall retires — Defender Nikki Marshall, who played in all 46 regular-season matches for the Portland Thorns in the club’s first two seasons, has retired from pro soccer. Marshall, 26, tore her right ACL in the Thorns final regular-season game last season.
Thorns coach Paul Riley praised Marshall’s positive impact on him and the Thorns.
“We will miss her in the locker room, being our defensive general on the field and the never say die attitude that illuminated her entire career,” Riley said.
Under-23 schedule revealed — The Timbers under-23 team will open their Premier Development League season at 11 a.m. on May 14 at Providence Park.