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Timber likes view ahead

Tim Karalexis comes from the Battery with chops, optimism

It took him about 45 hours by car to get here and only a few minutes to see that coming to Portland was the right decision. “You show up for training camp and there’s a duffel bag full of gear,” says Tim Karalexis, a 27-year-old defender who came to the Timbers for midfielder Luke Kreamalmeyer in a December trade with the Charleston Battery. “They give you practice jerseys, cleats, running shoes and sandals — Nike outfits everything. Little things like that keep you happy and make you feel like a professional athlete,” he says. Karalexis drove by himself to Portland from the East Coast. “In Nebraska and Wyoming, you don’t even have cell phone coverage,” he says. “Had to find the right music and just rock on.” Anything with a beat will do, he says. “I hear Portland has a good indie rock scene,” he says. “I got into that a little bit last year.” The Timbers have become known in United Soccer Leagues circles as one of the most player-friendly teams, from the boost in management support to the fan support to the new FieldTurf at PGE Park. The team itself isn’t bad, either. “This is a good situation,” Karalexis says. Karalexis started all 28 games last year for the Battery and has made it all the way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2005. He could play in the middle of Portland’s defense, alongside all-league back Cameron Knowles, although last year’s starting left center back, Justin Thompson, has re-signed and is the likely starter. So Karalexis might wind up playing some at outside left back, an open position since Leonard Griffin moved up to the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer. “If I have to, I can play left center or left outside,” Karalexis says. “I’d rather be on the right side; I’m right-footed. But I feel comfortable on the left.” Either way, the 6-2 Karalexis should help Portland with more than his feet. He’s known for his strength in the air and powerful throw-ins. “I’ll win head balls all day,” he says, “and my throw-ins are definitely a weapon in the offensive third. I can hit the back post. It’s like a corner kick, basically.” That should give the Timbers, who thrived on Andrew Gregor’s free kicks and corners, even more potential on set pieces. Karalexis and other players say the new, truer turf could help them work the ball better up the field and increase their possession time. “With the turf they had here, it wasn’t so much soccer, it was a matter of winning with athleticism,” Karalexis says. “Now we can move the ball around better and play soccer.” Joining the Timbers, he has reunited with forward Chris Bagley, also 27. The two grew up in the Boston suburbs and played soccer together from age 9 through college, starring for Saint Anselm in Manchester, N.H. They’re living not far from PGE Park, with Timber midfielder Neil Dombrowski, who hails from West Allis, Wis., near Milwaukee. “We’re going to get Neil to have a Boston accent by the end of the year,” Karalexis says. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.