All in the Family: Timbers keep former players in the fold
By ANNE M. PETERSON
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Even though they retired after last season, three Portland Timbers didn't ride off into the sunset. They moved from the field to the cubicle, so to speak.
Former captain Jack Jewsbury is now Portland's director of business development, while fellow midfielder Ned Grabavoy was named director of scouting and recruitment. And defender Nat Borchers joined the Timbers' broadcast team.
The Timbers have a reputation for keeping it in the family - even GM Gavin Wilkinson played for the team from 2001-06. Former players Adin Brown, Cameron Knowles and Sean McAuley are first-team coaches.
It's not unusual in any sport for former players to remain with their teams in a new capacity, and it's fairly common throughout Major League Soccer: LA Galaxy goalkeeper Dan Kennedy retired in April and moved into a front office role while also helping out on broadcasts. It is kind of unusual to have three high-profile players make the leap at once.
Jewsbury retired after a 14-year career, including his final six seasons with the Timbers. He is one of just 10 players to have played 350 or more games in Major League Soccer's history.
"It's a place that people want to be. I think you see that in Ned, myself and Nat, all staying here post-playing career," said Jewsbury , who has a business degree. "When you look at the Timbers and keeping us on board, it's probably relatively rare that three guys with experience in the league, having grown up in the league and building the league all retire at the same time and there's an opportunity to keep them in three different capacities."
Grabavoy played 13 seasons in the league, with prior stops on several teams before landing in Portland. Borchers spent most of his career in Salt Lake City, but played on the Timbers team that won the MLS Cup in 2015.
Owner Merritt Paulson said he believes the team's embrace of former players is something that makes the Timbers unique in the league.
"I think, No. 1, players fall in love with the community. They're embraced by the city and the supporters in a big way and they love living out here," Paulson said. "And No. 2, the club treats former players really, really well. We're proud to have a number of former players working within our organization."
The only problem? Jewsbury said sometimes he misses donning his jersey.
"Game days are really hard, especially the first few. It was weird not being out there with the guys," he said. "You definitely miss the locker room, the banter with the guys. I don't miss the preseason or the two-a-days, but you miss the game that's for sure."
GAME OF THE WEEK: There will be a clash atop the Eastern Conference standings on Saturday when Toronto visits Chicago. The Reds hold the top spot of the table after decisively downing the Portland Timbers 4-1 at home last weekend. Defender Justin Morrow had two goals for Toronto, which remained undefeated at home this season.
"But we know on the road you don't get that many chances that we were able to get today," Reds coach Greg Vanney said following the victory over the Timbers. "For lack of a better word, we have to be more deadly in those moments that we create for ourselves."
Chicago sat in third in the conference, behind NYCFC, but will have a quick turnaround after Wednesday night's match in Montreal.
BEST OF THE REST: The top team in the Western Conference, the Dynamo, visits the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. Houston has never won at BC Place. The Whitecaps, meanwhile, are in seventh place and hoping for a final surge into the playoffs.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: With his two goals against Portland, Morrow was named the MLS Player of the Week. The brace was the first his career.
He's already tied his career-best mark with five overall goals this season.
"This comes from the coaches and the players," Morrow said about being able to score as a defender. "The coaches give me the freedom to get up the field and I'm still diligent in getting back and helping the rest of the defenders out. Doing plays as I can and it has been working so far."
Morrow was on the U.S. national team roster for the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer.
RED BULL RALLY: Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice and the New York Red Bulls rallied from a two-goal deficit to secure a spot in the U.S. Open Cup title match with a 3-2 victory over FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night.
The Red Bulls will visit Sporting Kansas City in the championship game on Sept. 20. Sporting advanced by winning a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes last week.
New York's Connor Lade went to Twitter following the thrilling comeback.
"My heart is still racing! Unreal performance by the boys to fight back in a wild game! So proud of my squad! Onto KC," he posted .
But it was a historic run for FC Cincinnati, which plays in the United Soccer League. In just the team's second year, FCC made the longest run in the tournament by a lower-tier side since 2011 when the Richmond Kickers also reached the semifinals.
"I'm incredibly proud of everyone in that room," forward Andrew Wiedeman told reporters afterward. "I think we went out and showed that we could go toe to toe with another top team in the MLS."
Updated August 16, 2017