In 2015, the Portland Timbers felt they needed to perform a hard reboot on their Academy. In an interview with Jamie Goldberg of The Oregonian, Timbers General Manager Gavin Wilkinson said he charged the academy staff with a goal that at the time seemed well out-of-reach: By 2020, the Academy was to develop at least one player per year capable of playing for the first team.
It may be ahead of schedule.
On Friday morning the Timbers announced they have signed Stanford striker Foster Langsdorf to a first-team contract. Langsdorf is the second Academy product in as many years to be signed to the first team. As the second homegrown player on the roster alongside Marco Farfan, Langsdorf will occupy the Timbers’ 30th roster spot.
A member of the Timbers Academy from 2012 through 2014, Langsdorf was named the 2013 Academy Player of the Year. His time in the Academy and, before that, with FC Portland earned Langsdorf a scholarship to play for Jeremy Gunn in Palo Alto.
Coming out of the Portland area and a fledgling academy, however, Langsdorf was hardly a glamor recruit. As a true freshman Langsdorf struggled to make an splash for the Cardinal, making only 13 appearances and registering a goal and an assist. His team was successful — Stanford won their first Pac-12 title since 2001 in 2014 — but Langsdorf was hardly an instant-impact freshman. If Langsdorf was going to break through in Palo Alto, he was going to have to earn it.
And that he did.
The Vancouver native worked his way into the starting lineup for Gunn’s side as a sophomore in 2015, playing Robin to Jordan Morris’s Batman as Stanford rolled to their first ever men’s soccer national championship. Still, with Morris taking the headlines, few noticed Langsdorf’s seven goals and three assists on the way to All-Pac-12 Second Team honors.
With Morris off The Farm, though, many thought the less-heralded Langsdorf would struggle to keep Stanford at the top of the national scene. His response over the next two years: 31 goals, eight assists, two more national championships, and becoming the first two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year in conference history.
During his junior and senior seasons at Stanford, Langsdorf elevated his profile from Morris sidekick to one of the most prolific collegiate forwards in the country. Lacking elite size or pace, Langsdorf thrived at Stanford by emulating a striker just down the bay from Palo Alto. Like Chris Wondolowski with the San Jose Earthquakes, Langsdorf filled up the nets at Stanford by exhibiting an at-times uncanny knack for floating away from defenders in the box and finding space to get on the end of service.
Whether he’ll be able to do so at the next level very much remains a question. Defenders at the MLS level aren’t so easily duped and spaces in the box are considerably harder to come by. If Langsdorf had been in this year’s MLS SuperDraft the consensus among raters is that he would’ve landed somewhere in the late-first or second rounds alongside many other borderline MLS prospects.
Langsdorf, then, still has plenty to prove with the Timbers. In all likelihood the Timbers’ new homegrown will start his professional career playing the bulk of his minutes at T2, and if he aspires to first-team minutes the Cardinal legend have to earn them on the training field and with the second team.
The last time Langsdorf was in that position, though, things worked out quite well.