The Portland Timbers announced today that the club has signed 18 year-old Tega Ikoba as a Homegrown Player through the 2024 season. As a product of the Timbers’ academy system, the forward spent time with Timbers 2 in 2020 and also has trained with the first team during previous preseasons.
Tega Ikoba might be a name familiar to Timbers fans if you were following the team’s 2021 preseason closely. Ikoba trained with the first team during that time and also traveled with the team down to Arizona for the preseason tournament in Tucson. While there, he scored Portland’s first goal in a 3-1 win over Phoenix Rising in a preseason friendly. Ikoba also traveled with the team for preseason camp in Costa Rica during the 2020 preseason.
During the 2021 regular season, Ikoba played one collegiate season at the University of North Carolina, where he tallied a team-leading six goals and two assists in 19 games played. He also earned ACC All-Freshman Team honors during his lone season with the Tar Heels. In the 2020 USL Championship regular season, Ikoba made seven appearances for Timbers 2 while part of Timbers Academy.
In his time spent with the Timbers first team, Ikoba seemed to fit into the culture of the group well and his rapid rise over the past two seasons to earn a first team contract is a testament to how highly the Timbers technical staff think of his ability on the field. He becomes the fourth Homegrown Player the Timbers have signed out of their academy since 2011, joining active Homegrowns Blake Bodily and Hunter Sulte on the senior roster.
Ikoba will likely have chances to see playing time in 2022. He is, as of now, the primary backup to forwards Felipe Mora and Jaroslaw Niezgoda. There is a chance he will find the field to fill in for either of them during the regular season.
The US Open Cup competition is also returning and may allow Ikoba the chance to impress. It is a competition in which MLS sides historically field reserve sides in early rounds. And with the imminent re-launch of Portland’s reserve team in the new MLS Next-Pro reserve league, Ikoba could also be loaned out to find minutes there to continue his development.
Regardless of where he finds game time, in Ikoba the Timbers have a promising young player that could grow into a real first team contributor over the next few years.
You can read the full press release from the Timbers on Ikoba’s signing here.