Au Revoir, Mikael Silvestre

He only played in eight games for the Portland Timbers. Eight little games.

Less than James Marcelin, Hayner Mosquera, or Eric Alexander. Less than Kosuke Kimura, Steve Purdy, or Jeremy Hall.

And yet when the news trickled in last week that Mikael Silvestre wouldn’t play for the Timbers in 2014, it stung. And when the official announcement was made on Monday, it was a gut-punch.

Silvestre didn’t play much. He never scored a goal, or had an assist, or a gave-saving tackle. The Timbers’ highest-profile player ever stitched his way into the fabric of Portland soccer the old-fashioned way. He connected with people.

In just a year, it seems like everyone in Portland has a Silvestre story. People met him walking around the Pearl District, or at a bar. People interacted with Silvestre at his daughter’s soccer games, or talked with him about his rum.

Yes – Silvestre may be the only central defender ever with his own rum. Of course, he’s French. So it adds up.

When the official announcement came down, the outpouring of support for Silvestre was touching. Silvestre’s statement was even better.

"I loved my time with the Timbers," Silvestre said. "My family and I have enjoyed our time in Oregon and we plan to stay here for the foreseeable future. I am excited to stay and seek other opportunities.

"The fans here have created one of the strongest fan bases I have seen in my career. I would like to thank them for their undying support, they have made my experience here unforgettable. For the Timbers, the squad has momentum after a strong finish last year and I wish them the best for the coming season."

He’s sticking around.

This is true of every fan-base to some extent, but it especially pertinent in Portland: Fans want their players to love their city as much as they do. They want them to recognize what a special opportunity it is to live and play in the Rose City.

Silvestre got that. A player who danced and dusted the floor at the very pinnacle of football found a home in Cascadia.

He’s always been known as someone who exuded class, from Manchester United to Arsenal, but the air of knowledge and professionalism Silvestre showed in his short time in Portland bettered the club.

I thought he’d start this year. The Timbers easily played their best soccer when he was on the field in 2013. Those first eight games of the season cemented Porterball and a winning, piercingly hopeful culture around the Timbers.

The team was able to play swashbuckling football because Silvestre’s passing ability linked Portland’s shaky backline to their dynamite central midfield, and the team was off to the races from there.

Silvestre’s confidence and ability on the ball was one of the reasons he fit so perfectly into the Timbers’ system, and he was very strong defensively as well.

It was gut wrenching to see Silvestre crumpled on the turf at Jeld-Wen Field against New England on May 2nd, 2013 knowing that his season, and possibly career, was over.

Portland’s football never recovered in 2013.

When the team survived a midseason dip, their furious finish to the season was completed with long-ball and guile. Caleb Porter less resembled Arsene Wenger than Jose "1-0" Mourinho.

Simply put, the Timbers had to adapt their style to the limited passing capabilities of Futty Danso, Pa Moudu Kah, and to a lesser extent, Andrew Jean-Baptiste.

In 2014, the Timbers would have had the best ball playing central defense in the league with Silvestre and Norberto Paparatto.

And make no mistake about this: Silvestre is fit and ready to go. His departure wasn’t exactly mutual decision, and my guess is that things aren’t as rosy between the Frenchman and the Timbers as they seem.

Silvestre’s agent has been eagerly getting the word out that his client isn’t retiring and is ready to play. Championship clubs in England and other MLS teams have been linked. I’m not sure if Silvestre will play again, but if he doesn’t, it won’t be because no one would take a chance on him.

In the end, the Timbers came to the decision that with his high salary, age, and injury history, Silvestre wasn’t worth keeping around.

When Silvestre’s signing was imminent after the Timbers’ final preseason game against AIK last year, Caleb Porter said with an air of exasperation in his post-game press conference, "We aren’t signing Mikael Silvestre to sit on the bench." It seems that with Silvestre’s starting spot not guaranteed this year, Porter was sticking true to his original Silvestre thesis.

But I’m not sure I understand it – Silvestre can run rings around Kah, and whoever else the Timbers will plug in beside Paparatto.

Silvestre is also working on entering coaching – he received his B-license that enables him to work with players through the college level from US Soccer on the same day news broke that he wouldn’t be back with the Timbers.

The wish from many in Portland is that Silvestre gets involved with the Timbers academy or becomes an assistant coach, something that won’t happen now, but could happen down the road – especially if Silvestre and his family remain in Portland.

It’s funny – the Silvestre era started so inauspiciously. That first half debacle against New York was so bad from Silvestre it was verging on comedy.

But what’s forgotten from that home-opener is that in the second half, Silvestre owned the backline, and he served up a terrific cross that Ryan Johnson barely missed from with a bicycle kick.

Had Johnson scored, that play would have gone down as one of the most famous in MLS history.

But at the end, Silvestre played so little in green and gold his story didn’t take place on the field.

He made his name in the community, and he’ll continue to do so for the "foreseeable future". Sometimes, the silver lining shines.

Au revoir, Silvestre. See you soon.

Alright guys, I don't believe I have to say this but, just in case, please do not submit anything racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise not appropriate for even the younger Timbers fans.

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