By JOSE M. ROMERO
The Portland Timbers must have really thought highly of their lower-division version.
Portland announced the signing of four players Wednesday, all who were members of the USSF-2 Timbers that made the playoffs. The Timbers added defenders Mamadou "Futty" Danso and Kevin Goldthwaite and midfielders James Marcelin and Khalif Alhassan.
The four join three USSF-2 teammates who earlier signed with the MLS Timbers — goalkeeper Steve Cronin, forward Bright Dike and midfielder Ryan Pore.
"The four players we’ve added [Wednesday] can play at the next level in Major League Soccer,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said in a statement from the team. "It doesn’t matter which division you’ve played in previously, if you’re good enough, you’re good enough. I think these guys have the ability to make an impact at the next level."
Technical director Gavin Wilkinson had earlier hinted that more USSF-2 Timbers would be added to the roster after the original group was signed and the week of the expansion draft. Only Danso was with the team the past two seasons, as Goldthwaite came over from the New York Red Bulls late last season, Alhassan joined the team from his native Ghana midway through the season and also played in the postseason and Marcelin, from Haiti, played in 27 games in his only season with the Timbers last year.
Danso made his rookie debut for the USL Timbers in 2009 and went on to play in 40 games over that season and the next for the Timbers. He also earned a callup to his native Gambia's senior national team earlier this year.
Alhassan is 20 years old and played for Ghana's U-17 and U-20 national teams. Marcelin, previously with the Puerto Rico Islanders, was capped for Haiti in the 2007 and 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cups. Goldthwaite, the Red Bulls' Defender of the Year in 2008, won an MLS Cup with the Houston Dynamo in 2006, his second season in MLS.
Danso and Goldthwaite helped Portland’s backline rank among second-division leaders in fewest goals allowed and shutouts last season.
Goldthwaite and Spencer go back to their days together when Spencer was a Dynamo assistant coach.
"He brings us great leadership qualities in the back," Spencer said of Goldthwaite, a Sacramento, Calif., native.
Seven of the 15 players on the Timbers' current roster are defenders. Another defender, Jonathan Bornstein, is not listed on the roster but his MLS rights are controlled by Portland.