With Futty Danso out of contract following his brief stint in Montreal, fans of the Portland Timbers are split on him; some want their long-serving defender to return, others want nothing to do with the man who was at the back for a large part of the team's early season collapse in 2014.
Now, however, the Timbers are building their USL Pro side, Portland Timbers 2. A home for developing players, giving time to those on the bench, and building up players coming back from injury, Timbers 2 will have many purposes, none of which seem to fit with what Futty brings to the table.
At 31 years old, with a track record of solid defending marred by the occasional but regular misstep, Futty is decidedly not a prospect for the future.
What he is, however, is an experienced pro that, despite never being the favorite at the back, has managed to stick around MLS for the last four years, largely through working hard and being ready when called on by the Timbers.
Moreover, with the exception of his brief stint in Cananda, Futty spent his full six years as a professional soccer player with the Timbers: first in the USL, then in MLS. Although there are still several players with the Timbers today who have been there since the team joined MLS (five, to be exact: Kalif Alhassan, Jake Gleeson, Jack Jewsbury, Darlington Nagbe, and Rodney Wallace; Diego Chara misses out by a month), none have spent the amount of time with the Timbers that Futty did.
There is a common refrain among Timbers fans, and from the organization itself, that this team needs to be more than just a team; that they need to be involved in the community and that they need to be a part of Portland, rather than just playing here.
As Timbers 2 comes together over the course of the offseason, there will be an influx of new players into Portland and the team will need leaders both on and off the field to make sure that the tightly knit group that has been formed in the first team is reflected in the second.
Looking back to the 2011 season, the Timbers started the year with a
five four game winning streak at Providence Park, then still called Jeld-Wen Field. It was too good to last, however, and on May 3rd, the Timbers lost their first home game since joining MLS, a 1-0 U.S. Open Cup qualifying match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Having played 120' of grueling soccer and having given up the deciding goal in the final minute of overtime, the Timbers headed straight into the locker room without taking the team's usual post-game lap of the field, a tradition that fans take for granted, but that the players, most of whom had only been in Portland for three or four months, were not as familiar with.
There were, however, several Timbers veterans with the team that night, including Ryan Pore and Futty Danso, who brought their teammates back out onto the field no matter the result, setting the tone for the every home game since.
That connection to the team's history, even at a low point for the newly formed Timbers, is something that will need to be impressed on young players coming up through the ranks. Futty may be just the player for the job, but even if the Timbers do not bring him back, there will need to be someone with Timbers 2 who can make sure that the new arrivals forge as strong a connection with the team as he did.