Timbers' D-2 scoring star off to slow start in return to MLS play
During a short-field intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday, Portland Timbers midfielder Ryan Pore turned the ball over in the offensive third and later took a shot from just outside the 18-yard box that went squarely into a defender. Soon after that, though, Pore slashed through two defenders and sent in a blistering goal from 8 yards.
The third play showed Pore's talent. The first two showed a couple of reasons why coach John Spencer relegated Pore to the bench after starting him the first two matches of the season.
'When I signed here, I expected to be in the starting 11 come the season opener,' Pore says. 'I'll fight like heck to get (back) in there.'
Last season, Pore was the USSF Division-2 Pro League MVP. The 5-11, 165-pounder from Mansfield, Ohio, and the University of Tulsa knocked in 15 goals to win the league's Golden Boot award. He had a league-best 35 points.
'When he came in this year for preseason, you could tell he was hungry to be as successful as he was in USL last year,' says Timbers midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, who also moved up from the D-2 team.
But Spencer was not pleased by Pore's performance in the Timbers' first two MLS matches, two-goal losses at Colorado and Toronto in which Pore got off a total of one shot. Pore isn't likely to start in the MLS home opener tonight against Chicago.
'(Soccer) is a simple game made difficult by idiots,' Spencer says. 'I do believe that Ryan has the ability to play at this level. Does he have the belief? You can talk and say that you're ready to play, but you've got to play. And right now, we've got guys on the team before him that are doing not a bad job.'
Pore, 27, was in a similar position with the Kansas City Wizards from 2005-08. He played sporadically before being released.
'I kind of fell out of favor and wasn't getting the games I needed to progress,' Pore says. 'It was a tough learning experience for me coming out of college.'
Pore admits that he briefly considered giving up soccer. But when the Timbers showed interest in him, those thoughts evaporated.
Still, it was difficult for Pore to play down a level and take a significant pay cut. He was trying to support himself and wife Ashley, who he married in 2007. 'With the economy the way it was, it took Ashley nine months to find a job,' he says.
On the flip side, Pore could not have been happier with the pay increase that came with returning to MLS. Especially because he and Ashley will be welcoming a son in June. The Pores already have decided to name him Luca.
'Anytime you can provide greater for your family, it's a great thing,' Pore says. 'I'm pulling my wife and soon-to-be kid around the country -the least I can do is provide for them.'
Spencer points out several things he wants to see more of from Pore.
'If you're a wide midfield player, you've got to get shots at goal, you've got to get crosses, you've got to get assists, you've got to work hard when you don't have the ball,' the coach says. 'It's not a difficult game to understand. … As a midfield player, when you don't have the ball, when the ball is on the opposite side, you tuck in, and when it's on your side, you pressure the ball, you work hard, you try to win it back.
'When you get it, you try and play. If you're a wide midfield player, can you get one-on-one with the fullback, and get crosses and service into the box? If not, can you come inside and get shots off?'
Midfielder Sal Zizzo says Pore has some of the intangibles that a quality player must bring to the pitch.
'He's a good player,' Zizzo says. 'He likes to go at people one-on-one, he has a great shot from distance, he's very vocal, and he's a very aggressive player. He's one of the leaders in the locker room.'
Timbers technical director Gavin Wilkinson, who coached the D-2 team, believes Pore can play the way he did last season.
'He has that sort of ability where, if he's to take a leadership role and work hard and do what he does well, then only he can write his own future,' Wilkinson says.