Welcome to the Roots Report, a semiannual look at some of the prospects to watch throughout the Timbers system.
In this (hopefully) recurring piece, we’ll provide a quick update on some of the Timbers best prospects at the T2, collegiate, U-19, and U-17 levels. The purpose is not necessarily to identify the players that have had the most productive seasons at their respective levels, but rather to provide a quick look at some of the most promising non-first-team players that may someday find their way to the first team.
Although players like Marco Farfan and Victor Arboleda are certainly part of the Timbers’ developmental pipeline and, as such, would ordinarily be considered in a full analysis of the Timbers’ roots, the purpose here is to take a quick look at some of the lesser-known players in the Timbers’ system.
Lorenzo Lopez — Perhaps no player at the U-17 level has risen as much over the last year as Lopez, a pacey left back who has spent time playing up with the Timbers U-19s over the past year and earned a Development Academy Western Conference Best XI selection in 2016-17. At this point of Lopez’s development his attacking is ahead of his defending, but two full years remaining in the Academy, Lopez has plenty of time and upside.
Kashope Oladapo — The U-17 American international goalkeeper is among the top goalkeeping prospects in his class. A 2020 graduate, Oladapo recently debuted with the USYNT U-17 at the Nike Friendlies and has the physical tools to be a next-level goalkeeper. As with virtually all goalkeeping prospects, however, he has work to do on the game-management side.
Owen Guske — Although he projects as a right back, Guske — a recent addition to the Timbers Academy from the Jacksonville Armada — has played both in midfield and on the backline for the Timbers. A U-15 international and 2020 graduate, Guske will likely spend some time up with the U-19s this year.
Josh Darius — Another newcomer to the Academy, Darius wasted little time making his mark at the U-17 level, leading the 17s with nine goals in 16 appearances on the year. Darius, a project striker with the physical stature to be a true number-nine, has showed improving feet and holdup play in his first season in Portland.
Coby Atkinson — Atkinson, a U-17 Jamaican international, was a standout for the Timbers U-16s in 2016-2017. Now playing at the U-19 level, Atkinson projects as a right back but will spend time as a right wingback and in defensive central midfield this season.
Lucas Cini — A somewhat undersized striker, Cini made his debut for T2 this season after banging in 20 goals at the U-16 and U-18 levels last season. This year? More of the same as Cini has 13 goals in 16 appearances for the Timbers. Cini was a Development Academy Western Conference Best XI selection last year and very well could be in line for even more time with T2 next season.
Kyle Gruno — A newcomer to the Timbers Academy by way of New Jersey and Leicester City, Gruno is a centerback with good feet and an impressive frame. An American U-18 international this spring, with a good Academy season Gruno could see some time with T2 this spring.
Wilterlynd Inalien — Inalien made a splash in his first season in Portland last year, scoring 17 goals in 26 appearances with the Timbers last year. As a result, the pacey forward/winger earned himself a spring call into the U-18 national team. His strike rate has been slightly more earth-bound this fall (7 goals in 15 appearances), but don’t be shocked to see Inalien’s name mentioned with T2 in the spring.
Adrian Villegas — Once the crown jewel of the Timbers Academy, Villegas has had a tough season with the U-17 U.S. setup, ultimately missing the World Cup team. Still, Villegas is as quick and technical as any player in the Academy, but with questions about which position he could play at the next level.
Akil Watts — Watts has only made eight appearances for the Timbers this fall, largely as a result of spending time in India for the U-17 World Cup where he made two starts for John Hackworth’s side in their run to the quarterfinal. Although he has been playing right back with the national team, Watts had played defensive midfield for the Timbers and could project as s right centerback. A no-frills, versatile defensive player, Watts very well could be in line for time with T2 next season.
Carlos Anguiano — Anguiano has been a mainstay in the Timbers Academy for the last few years, and earned spot starts with T2 this season. Anguiano has shown flashes of the technical ability to make the jump to the next level, but the question will be where in midfield he lands.
Gio Calixtro — Another mainstay of the Timbers Academy, Calixtro burst onto the scene in 2015-2016 with 17 goals for the U-16s. This season, however, he’s made the most noise with T2, registering a pair of goals and showing a nose for poaching in front of the net. Although positionally ambiguous, at just 17 years old Calixtro has made himself into one of the top Academy-age prospects.
Blake Bodily — Although it was a frustrating season for Bodily in the gap year that he took to play with T2, it was nonetheless a growing experience for the young winger if early returns at the University of Washington are any indication. Playing primarily on the left wing, Bodily registered 3 goals and 8 assists as a true freshman playmaker for the Huskies. Although the Pac-12 season brought some struggles for the Dawgs and their national tournament appearance was short-lived, if Bodily takes another step forward next year he may not be long for Montlake.
Foster Langsdorf — He can’t be successful without Jordan Morris, they said. He won’t be able to lead an elite NCAA team, they said. Balderdash. All Langsdorf has done since Morris left is become the first two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year in conference history, win two national titles, and score 26 goals while adding 8 assists in 40 appearances. No surprise: On Wednesday evening Gavin Wilkinson said on Talk Timbers that the club is “very likely” to look to sign the Stanford striker to a homegrown player contract.
Sam Werner — For much of his Stanford career Werner has been known as a nice midfield cog for the Cardinal. But he’s also become known as something else: A big-time gamer. After scoring the title-sealing penalty in 2016, Werner (who had two goals and five assists for the Cardinal in the regular season) scored a goal in the national quarterfinal, semifinal, and a golden goal in the national final to be named the 2017 College Cup Most Outstanding Offensive Player. Werner likely has one more year at Stanford (he was a redshirt junior this season), but he, too, is probably one more step forward away from a contract either with the first or second team in Portland.
Niko De Vera — The Camas native was perhaps a little bit of a sleeper among the collegiate Timbers, but De Vera became a regular starter at fullback for the national-finalist Akron Zips this season, registering four assists including three in the month of November. Although at 5’5” there is reason to question whether he can play fullback at the professional level, if he succeeds it wouldn’t be the first time De Vera has overcome questions about his stature. Don’t be at all surprised to see De Vera pop up with T2 this year.
Harold Hanson — Coming into the T2 setup at 17 years old, Hanson was one of the few bright spots for a T2 team that struggled through a brutal season. Oozing the physical tools to be an MLS-level right back, Hanson has some rough edges on his game to smooth out before he’s ready to graduate to the first team. But with another couple years like he just had for the second team, Hanson could very easily find himself on the first-team roster.
Lamar Batista — Frequent T2 watchers got their share of cringes from Batista, especially early in 2017. But he also improved as much as any player on the team over the course of the season, which, at just 19 years old, is the most important metric. A towering beanpole at 6’5” and only 165 pounds, Batista has quite a bit to add to his frame before he’s playable at the next level, but, if he can fill out, improve his reads, and become more consistent with the ball at his feet, he could be a project that pans out for the first team.
Renzo Zambrano — If any player from the 2017 T2 disaster is going to be promoted to the first team in 2018, it’s probably Zambrano. A box-to-box presence in midfield, Zambrano, a 23-year-old full Venezuelan international with World Cup qualifying experience, acquitted himself fairly well in his short stint with T2 after signing in late-August. Expect to see Zambrano in camp with the first team and, if he has a good preseason, he could well slot into the first team as defensive-midfield depth.