Portland Timbers and Thorns owner Merritt Paulson held his first Twitter Q&A session since 2013, and among the the interesting tidbits that came out of it was this inquiry by Anthony Thurston of Rose City Soccer Press-
@amthur88 salem or Portland...probably wouldn't play in Prov park though— Merritt Paulson (@MerrittPaulson) June 9, 2014
Since the beginning of the USLPro/MLS Partnership, the prospect of the Timbers creating their own reserve side. Currently, the Timbers have an official partnership with Sacramento Republic, where Steven Evans, George Fochive, and Jake Gleeson have all seen starts and extensive playing time.
Additionally, Taylor Peay is on loan to Orange County Blues, where former Timbers Bright Dike and Andrew Jean-Baptiste saw paying time before returning to the Timbers, as well as Arizona United, where Bryan Gallego, Schillo Tshuma, and Rodney Wallace are all currently on loan.
The partnership with Sacramento would be a good option except for one wildcard: the San Jose Earthquakes, who are also in an affiliate agreement, despite initially showing little interests in such a partnership until the Timbers showed interest in doing so.
Operating a USLPro franchise has many advantages for the Timbers versus an affiliate agreement, with perhaps the greatest being continuity in coaching and style of play between first team and, assuming the team were located in either Portland or Salem, recall and transfer of players would be relatively easy with travel not being much of an issue.
With Providence Park out of the picture, Merlo Field at the University of Portland would be the next logical option as a home stadium, since the USLPro and college seasons would overlap and since it seats a little under 5,000, it would put it right around the middle in terms of stadium capacity.
Another in-town soccer-specific option would be Tuominen Yard at Concordia University in NE Portland, which features an all turf Nike Grind pitch. The problem is that the Yard only seats 1,400, which would make it the smallest venue in USLPro by quite a bit, so it would probably not be an option. Also, an existing Nike contract and branding on the pitch would make things interesting if the USL Pro side carried the Timbers name and Adidas branding. Spartans FC of NPSL currently play their home matches here.
Another option would be Strasser Field, or the proposed Timbers and Thorns Training Facility at Delta Park. Strasser Field is another soccer-specific options. Unfortunately, this proposed training facility seems to have stalled in governmental backlog and not much has been heard of it since.
There are also several high school and college facilities in the area that could host a USLPro franchise, but most of these fields feature running tracks around the pitch, causing the field size to be much narrower and shorter than an idea soccer pitch, along with other issues related to fields where American Football and soccer share a field.
As for options near Salem, Volcanoes Stadium, home of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the short-season Class A Northwest League. It is the largest stadium in the area, seating 4,252 and is located off I-5, but Timbers fans know well the sight-line issues that come from playing soccer in a baseball stadium.
McArthur Stadium at Western Oregon University in Monmouth and McCulloch Stadium at Willamette University could also be options, as would local high school stadiums, though these stadiums would all be on the smaller side and have the issue of the running track creating smaller fields.
Regardless of what may happen, the Timbers already have the structure and personnel in place to launch a team in less than a year and with the affiliation agreement with Sacramento only short term, this seems like there is a distinct possibility of this happen on the future.
USLPro has undergone significant expansion over the past few years, with Arizona United, Oklahoma City Energy, LA Galaxy II, and Sacramento Republic all playing their first season. Colorado Springs, NYRB Reserves, Tulsa Roughnecks, and St. Louis FC will all begin play in 2015, while the current Orlando City franchise will move to Louisville and become Louisville City.
Would you like to see a Timbers run or affiliated USLPro side in Portland or Salem? Let us know in the comments.