How Portland and Sacramento Will Work Together

Gleeson, Gallego sent on loan to the new USL Pro club, Portland affiliate
by Ray Marcham   |   Thursday, February 20, 2014

Green Logs – column on Portland Timbers (PTFC) & the Portland, Oregon area soccer scene.

With the Rose City Invitational preseason tournament starting this weekend, what the Portland Timbers will look like for the 2014 season is starting to come together.

Also coming together is which players are will be sent south to play with USL PRO’s newest club as part of an interesting experiment.

On Tuesday, Timbers manager Caleb Porter announced that goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and defender Brian Gallego were being loaned to Sacramento Republic FC for the 2014 season, making them the first 2 players sent to Sacramento as part of the affiliate agreement the Timbers have with the club. Gleeson hasn’t played with the first team since 2011, when he started 3 matches, while Gallegos was signed after playing with the Timbers U-23s last year.

The situation in Sacramento is different than most of the other affiliations MLS clubs have with USL PRO teams. One major difference is that the Republic will be the only club in the league to have 2 MLS affiliates. The San Jose Earthquakes also have signed an affiliate agreement with Sacramento, and will be sending players to the California capital throughout the season. As of Wednesday, the Quakes had not assigned any players to Sacramento.

That means both the Timbers and Quakes will have loaned players in Sacramento at the same time, playing together and trying to enhance the skills needed to get the call back up to their MLS club. With Portland and San Jose playing different systems, what each player is asked to work on will likely be different, as well.

Also, Sacramento has been signing their own players, as well (including ex-Timber Rodrigo Lopez and Justin Braun, a veteran of 4 MLS clubs). So when Sacramento opens the 2014 season against LA Galaxy II at the end of March, there will be a mix of the Republic’s own players and players on loan from Portland and San Jose on the field.

But one advantage Sacramento has is in coaching, and the MLS experience that is there. Former US international player, MLS and MISL legend, and ex-Toronto and Chivas USA manager Preki (or, as his family knows him, Predrag Radosavljevic) is the head coach in Sacramento. He will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience that players like Gleeson and Gallego can learn much from as they work towards their goal of playing in MLS. Preki and technical director Graham Smith will be ones that Porter and Gavin Wilkinson will be in contact with the most in learning how the Timbers’ players are doing, the progress that is being made and whether the players Portland has on loan to Sacramento are ready to step into a role with the Timbers if needed.

There will also be a few extra responsibilities that come with being with a first-year club, as well. Plenty of promotional events, likely clinics at the temporary stadium at the Cal Expo complex and around the north end of the Central Valley, and occasional media activities will also be a part of the players’ routine. They will be selling soccer in Sacramento – and, the club’s owners hope, setting up for a future MLS expansion into the city – along with making themselves ready in case the call back up to the Timbers comes.

But the loan agreement means that the Timbers will no longer have an official reserve side. While reserve games drew decent crowds to the newly-renamed Providence Park, the Sacramento affiliation reflects a change in how the Timbers will be developing players. The agreement with the Republic is just for 1 year, so Wilkinson, Porter and the Timbers staff can see how things went in Sacramento, how Gleeson and Gallego (along with any other players the Timbers might send south) improved and were used, and decide what direction they want to go in 2015.

In a sense, the Portland-Sacramento affiliation is an experiment. If it works out well, the agreement might be renewed. If the agreement is not renewed, the Timbers can go any number of directions, including going with another USL PRO club as an affiliate, helping create a new USL PRO team closer to Portland (there was once a push to bring a USL Pro club to Eugene) or go the route of the LA Galaxy and create an in-house USL PRO team that would play in Providence Park.

But that’s for 2015. The Timbers will be looking to make this year’s agreement with Sacramento work well for them. If it does, then that gives Wilkinson and Porter something to think about.

NEXT UP: February 23 – Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Providence Park, Portland, Ore. 8 p.m. EST,


Washington State
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Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.