With the 23rd pick in the draft, the Portland Timbers drafted Ryan Sierakowski, a senior central forward from Michigan State. With the pick, the Timbers are adding depth to a position where the team had a significant amount of turnover following the departures of Fanendo Adi and Samuel Armenteros, who were the consensus top two players at that position coming into the 2018 season.
“I’ve dreamt of this moment since I was six years old. I can’t wait to get started,” Sierakowski said on the league’s broadcast of the event, following his selection.
With a strong aerial game, Sierakowski gives coach Giovanni Savarese a target forward who can steal a goal from the mixer in the late stages of a match. Scouts have raved about a Sierakowski’s instincts and leadership, the same intangibles that many believed propelled the Timbers to the MLS Cup final.
Finding himself fourth (at least) on the depth chart at striker on a team that primarily plays with a single forward, it’s a strong possibility Sierakowski spends most, if not all, of 2019 playing for T2 with a look to develop Sierakowski as a spot sub and, possibly, a long-term starter.
Amid Homegrown Players being able to bypass the draft, more players turning professional and bypassing college soccer, and an unnamed MLS executive’s statement that MLS has evolved, but the U.S. collegiate system has not, it’s reasonable, if perhaps unfair, that there are lowered expectations on Sierakowski’s ceiling.
Sierakowski was a crucial player in the Spartans deep run in the 2019 NCAA College Cup before bowing out to eventual champion Akron in the semifinals. In the regular season, Sierakowski paced Michigan State with eight goals and five assists.
Savarese has stated on the record that winning is an important part of the development process and in this particular light, Sierakowski’s 2019 was quite the showcase. Down 1-0 late against James Madison, bagged a brace finding goals in the 72nd and 82nd minute to bring MSU their first trip to the since 1968.
The Timbers also selected defender Lennart Hein in the second round of the draft. A native of Hamburg, Germany, Hein spent four years playing with Saint Luis University after having been involved in the German national youth system through the U-18 level.