Ex-Timbers proceed to show Major stuff
As part of L.A. Galaxy, Josh Wicks and Bryan Jordan run with stars
As the second half was about to start in Shanghai, China, last month, the visiting team's players huddled at midfield. The captain - only perhaps the most recognizable soccer player in the world - was about to give his traditional remarks to fire up the squad for the final 45 minutes. But before David Beckham could say a word, the team's excitable new goalkeeper - a rookie - started running at the mouth.
'C'mon guys … we're gonna win … don't give 'em nothing!' Josh Wicks shouted, as Beckham and Landon Donovan and the rest of the Los Angeles Galaxy looked on, dumbfounded and bemused.
After the game, Beckham pulled the former Portland Timber goalie aside and told him: 'You don't understand. The captain is the only person to give that cheer.'
For several days, Wicks' L.A. teammates weren't about to let him forget his transgression of talk. They tossed the captain's armband onto his chair in the locker room and made him wear it the rest of the trip - 'everywhere, even on the plane and in the restaurants,' Wicks says.
The incident has become part of L.A. Galaxy legend.
'I'm pretty pumped up when I get to play; I just fell back into autopilot,' Wicks says. 'The guys got a good laugh out of it.'
The Galaxy's director of soccer, Paul Bravo, also chuckles at what happened, and he smiles at how Wicks and another 2007 Timber player, forward Bryan Jordan, have caught on so quickly with the Major League Soccer club.
'The group really likes them, and chemistry is important,' Bravo says.
Jordan played in all six preseason matches, and Wicks did well in his three games. And with that, there was no question that the Galaxy wanted to keep them both.
'Josh struggled a little the first couple of weeks, but over time he began to grow on Ian (Feuer, goalkeeper coach) and Ruud (Gullit, head coach),' Bravo says. 'In Hawaii (in February), we found out Josh was a gamer. The first game at halftime, it was like something clicked in Josh Wicks, and he became this seasoned pro. He grew with confidence and played out of his head, to be quite honest, over those two games.'
Bravo says Wicks, 31, is battling No. 1 keeper Steve Cronin, 24, for playing time.
'Ruud feels the goalkeepers are very close right now,' Bravo says.
Jordan, a very quick, 5-8, 160-pound second-year pro from Oregon State, is even more likely to see action, Bravo says.
'He's great late in games -a busy guy,' Bravo says. 'He chases things down all over the field. He can come on and create havoc. He's been goal-dangerous in every game he's played for us.'
Jordan, 22, also surprised his new teammates away from the action on their trip to the Far East. For some reason -the Galaxy haven't quite been able to figure it out -fans there took a liking to Jordan, and many brought homemade signs to show their support.
'You go on a trip with Beckham and you've never seen anything like it,' Bravo says. 'We have our paparazzi, and fans wait in droves just to get a glimpse of David as the guys get on the bus. In Hong Kong, we were headed to the game and there were all these Bryan Jordan signs - 'We love you, Bryan,' that sort of thing.'
'I don't know how they knew me,' Jordan says. 'But the coaches made sure I got out there and signed autographs, to build a fan base.'
Next: Portland plays an exhibition game April 11 at the University of Portland. The 7 p.m. match is against the UP men.
• Portland owner Merritt Paulson says PGE Park's stands would change if the city lands a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
'We'd have to move some of the concessions farther in to prevent some of the clogging in the corridors, so there's less choke point,' Paulson says.
The seating capacity -about 20,000 -would remain the same, even with the addition of permanent seating on the east side, where the outfield is for baseball.
'I wouldn't want to build up over the street level on the east side, but you could almost build down from the street level to the field,' Paulson says.
The north end zone would change, he says, although a lower area would be retained for the Timbers Army fan club.
'We'd be taking seats out and putting in other amenities,' Paulson says. 'In the north end, who knows what it would be, whether you're dealing with big screens, platforms and all kinds of restaurants. You need that kind of stuff, the types of things you have in the Rose Garden.'
• Leonard Griffin, who starred at left fullback for Portland last year, is on MLS Columbus' 18-man roster, for now, at least. The Crew signed another left back, Argentine Gino Padula, last week, leading to some speculation that Columbus might loan Griffin back to the Timbers.
'Right now, I'm not sure,' Griffin says. 'It depends on how the coaches feel, if they feel like they have enough guys at my position.
'The possibility of the whole defense returning (in Portland) could be pretty exciting,' says Griffin, noting that the Timbers have welcomed back starters Cameron Knowles, Scot Thompson and Justin Thompson. 'But I'd like to get a chance to prove myself here in this league. I'm waiting to see if that happens.'
Griffin tore his right meniscus a couple of weeks after arriving in Columbus last fall. He had surgery in October and returned to training in late December.
'It was like a fluke injury; I was just running, made a slight turn to change direction and felt a little pop in my knee,' he says. 'I'm pretty fit now. I think I've done my part. It's just a matter of when I get my chance, and that will be when I need to grasp and take hold of the job.'
• The Timbers will have some roster tinkering to do before they open the United Soccer Leagues First Division season April 17 at home against Puerto Rico.
Foremost is adding another high-powered forward.
'We have a young guy, 19 years old, who is going to be announced much later and who is going to have a real impact,' Paulson says.
- Steve Brandon