Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
BY MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- After being selected with the eighth overall pick in 2011 MLS Superdraft, it seemed like Michael Nanchoff was destined for big things. But after two unproductive, injury-plagued seasons, the Vancouver Whitecaps decided not to retain the Akron product.
Since Nanchoff arrived in Portland, he has shone while playing on the reserves, leading the club with four goals. However, it wasn’t until Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies that Nanchoff saw the field for the Timbers first team.
And he didn’t disappoint the home crowd, scoring his first career professional goal on a left-footed volley early in the US Open Cup fourth round match. The scene on Wednesday seemed a long way away from his two-year tenure with Whitecaps.
“I’ve had alot of unfortunate circumstances, injuries, and that kind of thing, and now finding my way into the lineup,” Nanchoff said. “When given the chance you have to take advantage of it.”
Head coach Caleb Porter was happy that Nanchoff, who played four years under Porter at Akron, was able to see the field in a competitive match.
“He’s been very good every day in training, he’s been very good in the reserve games, he got a chance tonight,” Porter said. “It was a great thing for someone like him to be able to get that goal and get rewarded for all the hard work he’s done.”
While Nanchoff continues to show well when given the opportunity, Porter believes it still might be difficult to fit Nanchoff into the regular lineup.
“One of the reasons that Nanchoff hasn’t played much because he’s got Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri ahead of him,” Porter said. “Michael is pretty much a No. 10 and he happens to be on a team that has two outstanding No. 10s.”
Despite being stuck behind Valeri, Nanchoff says it’s an “honor” to play with the Argentine and that he “picks his brain” in training as much as possible. Nanchoff and Nagbe, meanwhile, are teammates for the third time in their careers, having played together at Akron and for the PDL’s Cleveland Internationals.
Even though, Nanchoff will likely not be a regular starter in the near future, he has seemed to have locked in his position as a key reserve and will likely see the field again when the Timbers travel to Dallas for the US Open Cup Quarterfinals on June 26. No matter what happens in the future, Nanchoff was pretty happy about what happened on Wednesday night.
“It felt great to score my first goal, especially in front of the Timbers Army,” Nanchoff said. “It was pretty special.”
EVANS MAKES DEBUT
Homegrown player Steven Evans made his debut with the first team, playing the final 15 minutes of the victory over Tampa Bay. The Portland native was signed by the Timbers in the offseason, after playing his college soccer at the University of Portland.
“Honestly, we put Steven in because he’s a guy that’s battled and worked hard every single day and hasn’t played at all,” Porter said. “He’s a team guy and he doesn’t get a lot of reward for his work, so we wanted to throw him a little bone there.”
While Porter said Evans might not see action again this year for the first team, he believes it was important to try to get the former U-23 Timber on the field in a competitive match. That being said Evans is seen as a player that potentially contribute down the road, not in the 2013 season.
“We have a lot of time and we see a lot of value in the young player. We want to continue to develop guys and give them rewards for their work,” Porter said.
RICKETTS, JOHNSON TO RETURN FOR FC DALLAS MATCH
When the Timbers take on MLS leaders, FC Dallas, on Saturday at Jeld-Wen Field, they will joined by Donovan Ricketts and Ryan Johnson, who are coming off three matches for Jamaica in World Cup Qualifiers.
The Jamaican duo missed just one league match while playing for Jamaica and will both likely be in the starting lineup Saturday. Ricketts will be a welcome sight in net for the Timbers, who have not conceded a home goal in a MLS match since March 9.