The Portland Timbers signed centerback Rauwshan McKenzie, while waiving fullback Ryan Kawulok, bringing additional experience and depth to a position that has proved problematic for the Timbers since the club joined MLS.
The 26-year-old McKenzie was drafted 53rd overall in the 2008 draft by the Kansas City Wizards, and made just five starts with them over the first two years of his career. He made little headway during two subsequent years with Real Salt Lake, making just six appearances in his two-year stint in Utah.
McKenzie finally broke into a regular starting lineup last year, when he contributed 1732 minutes in 20 appearances for Chivas USA. Playing mainly alongside Heath Pearce and then Danny Califf, McKenzie was part of a back line that started the 2012 season as one of the most effective defensive teams in MLS.
He gradually saw less time as the season wore on, though, making his final appearance in a 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders on September 8.
McKenzie had two separate trials with the Timbers this year before his signing and played all 90 minutes in Sunday's 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps reserves. While his presence was somewhat overshadowed by the debut of Pa Modou Kah, McKenzie put on a solid performance and played confidently with his teammates.
Ryan Kawulok, a 2012 supplemental draft pick and former Timbers-U23 star during that team's perfect 2010 season, failed to make a dent in the starting XI during the 2012 season. He played every minute of the 2012 Reserves season, however, and showed a confidence and composure that excited many of the fans who watched.
Unfortunately for Kawulok's fans, with two key central defenders falling to long-term injuries already this season, it appears Caleb Porter was forced to sacrifice future potential for the immediate need of depth at the CB position.
What do you think of today's roster changes?
Timbers press release:
TIMBERS SIGN DEFENDER RAUWSHAN McKENZIE
Club waives defender Ryan Kawulok
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers today announced that the club has signed defender Rauwshan McKenzie. Additionally, the club waived defender Ryan Kawulok. Per MLS and club policy, terms of the transactions were not disclosed.
McKenzie, 26, joins the Timbers after making 20 appearances (19 starts) for Chivas USA during the 2012 season, recording one assist. Drafted by the Kansas City Wizards in the fourth round (53rd overall) of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, McKenzie played two seasons in Kansas City before signing with Real Salt Lake in 2010.
A native of Hoffman Estates, Ill., McKenzie spent two seasons with Real Salt Lake (2010-11), appearing in six regular-season matches and making two starts for the club during the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League tournament as Real Salt Lake reached the final against Monterrey of Mexico.
Kawulok, 23, was selected by the Timbers with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft. The Colorado native appeared in 14 matches for the Timbers Reserves during his time with the club. Prior to signing with the Timbers, Kawulok was a member of the Timbers U-23s for two seasons from 2010-11.
Born: Nov. 19, 1986, in Hartford, Conn.
Last Club: Chivas USA
College: Michigan State University
Citizenship: United States
Acquired: Signed May 22, 2013