As we enter into the offseason, the Portland Timbers today announced contract decisions for a number of players ahead of the 2023 MLS season.
Defender Zac McGraw and rookies Justin Rasmussen and Diego Gutierrez had contract options picked up for 2023 and will be returning to the club. Forward Blake Bodily, midfielder George Fochive, and goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg had their options declined, and they will be departing the club. In addition, Josecarlos Van Rankin had his purchase option declined and will be returning to Liga MX team Chivas de Guadalajara.
The team also remains in discussions with forward Nathan Fogaca over a new contract with the first team.
In returning McGraw, Rasmussen and Gutierrez the Timbers retain three of the more promising younger players on their roster. McGraw made the biggest strides out of arguably any players this year, earning himself a starting spot in the backline over the tail end of the 2022 season. The 25 year-old defender made 11 starts this year (a professional career high) and tallied his first professional goal in a 2-1 win over Austin FC this year. He departed Portland’s final game on Decision Day early with an apparent hamstring injury. The club has yet to announce the official injury, but it is expected that he will spend much of the winter recovering and rehabbing.
Rasmussen, a 23 year-old left-back, was selected 27th overall in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft and made his professional debut with the Timbers in this year. He made nine appearances and tallied seven starts this year, and will be poised to continue his development as he backs up Claudio Bravo in 2023.
Gutierrez, a 22 year-old forward, was selected 70th overall in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft and barely had a chance to get his 2022 season off the ground before it was hampered by injury. He made his professional debut in Portland’s third game of the season, but then underwent LisFranc stabilization surgery on his left food in April and never made another appearance for Portland in 2022. He will get a chance to grow into a rostered role player, or potentially even more, in 2023.
The highlight of the players departing is clearly Josecarlos Van Rankin. Brought in on loan for 2021 and 2022, Van Rankin was the go-to right-back for most of the past two seasons. A player who was very keen to drive forward and join in the attack, the Mexican defender left many Timbers fans feeling underwhelmed with his defensive ability, particularly in the 2022 season. He was benched in favor of a rotating cast of right wing-backs on the tail end of the season. As JVR departs, the Timbers do not have a ready-made and proven replacement ready to step into his starting role, so right-back now becomes a point of emphasis for this offseason.
Also leaving the Timbers is Homegrown forward Blake Bodily. Signed as a Homegrown player out of the University of Washington in 2020, Bodily spent time bouncing between Timbers 2 and the first team during his Timbers tenure. He made just 12 MLS appearances with the Timbers in his time with the team, and played just a hair of 200 minutes.
After a promising college career, Bodily unfortunately joins the long list of disappointing Timbers Homegrown projects.
George Fochive will also be departing the team. The midfielder, who was in his second stint with the Timbers after being on the roster from 2014-2015, was signed midway through the 2021 season. Fochive logged 24 appearances and scored two goals with the Timbers in his return to the club.
Lastly, backup goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg will also not be returning to the club. Vom Steeg was signed as a third ‘keeper to back up Aljaz Ivacic and David Bingham, and he didn’t tally any first team appearances for the club this year.
While this initial wave of roster decisions is unsurprising, it signals that the offseason well and truly is here for the Timbers.
You can read the press release on the roster decisions here, and see below for the current state of the Timbers roster.
Portland Timbers 2023 Roster *as of Oct. 17
Goalkeepers: David Bingham, Aljaz Ivacic, Hunter Sulte
Defenders: Pablo Bonilla, Claudio Bravo, Larrys Mabiala, Zac McGraw, Juan David Mosquera, Justin Rasmussen, Bill Tuiloma, Dario Zuparic
Midfielders: David Ayala, Sebastián Blanco, Diego Chara, Yimmi Chara, Marvin Loría, Santiago Moreno, Cristhian Paredes, Eryk Williamson
Forwards: Dairon Asprilla, Diego Gutierrez, Tega Ikoba, Felipe Mora, Jaroslaw Niezgoda