Portland Timbers: 5 Best Players in Club History
Portland, Oregon, known to some as “Soccer City USA,” has long been a passionate place for the beautiful game. Their beloved Portland Timbers have a storied history in American soccer since originating in the North American Soccer League in 1975.
There have been a handful of stars over the years, and after sorting through the history books, I did my best to rank the top five players in club history.
I chose exclusively from Timbers players with at least one full season under their belt and who participated in either the NASL era or the current MLS era. With all players, I attempted to weigh not only their contributions as Timbers, but also their overall quality and accomplishments throughout their careers.
Ladies and gentlemen, here are your five best players in club history.
Honorable Mention: Mikael Silvestre, Defender
Though he has only played a few games for the club and is thus ineligible for the top five, Silvestre earns an honorable mention slot due to his remarkable playing history with Manchester United and Arsenal. Rarely does the MLS see a player of his quality grace their league, and no current Timbers player can match his credentials.
A five-time Premier League Champion with the Red Devils, Silvestre was also a mainstay with the French squad, earning 40 caps and scoring twice.
Did I mention he is a Champions League winner?
A torn ACL has prevented him from any further contributions this season, but look for Silvestre to give the Timbers some much needed experience in the back line next year.
Honorable Mention: Clive Charles, Defender
Clive Charles is a popular name throughout the Portland soccer community. He was a consistent performer in the Timbers back line, playing in sixty-seven games for the green and white. Unfortunately, injuries hampered his last two seasons with the club, and he struggled to regain fitness before moving on to indoor soccer.
Charles was known for his rock-solid leadership and defending, but his real contributions came after his playing career was over.
After calling it quits in 1983, Charles began an illustrious coaching career, transforming the University of Portland into a nationally respected soccer program. As the head coach of the men's and women's teams, Charles earned over 400 victories, 13 conference titles and 20 NCAA tournament berths.
Portland lost Clive Charles to cancer in 2003, and his number three jersey hangs in the stadium rafters as the only retired number in Timbers history.
Honorable Mention: Darlington Nagbe, Midfielder
Darlington Nagbe was the Portland Timbers' first pick as an expansion team in Major League Soccer. The Akron star was a highly touted playmaker and potential MLS star.
Two years later, Nagbe is right on track. His former Akron coach, Caleb Porter, has taken over the Timbers and Nagbe appears to be thriving under his influence.
Nagbe has appeared in 73 games for the Timbers and has found the back of the net 11 times. With a flair for the spectacular, Nagbe hit a terrific volley that earned him the MLS Goal of the Year award in 2011, his debut season.
A creative midfielder capable of operating on either flank or even through the middle, Nagbe always seems to find himself in the starting lineup. He is a fan favorite and, at just 22 years of age, he has plenty of time to develop further.
After a few more seasons I am sure Nagbe will find his way toward the top of this list, especially as his penchant for scoring continues to increase.
5. Jack Jewsbury, Midfielder
Captain Jack was the Timbers' leading assist man and points champion in their first season of MLS play. Jewsbury had the Timbers on the brink of a playoff spot, and was selected to the league all-star game in 2011.
He is an emotional force in the heart of midfield as both a ball winner and a playmaker, a true box to box midfielder. He has a long history in Major League Soccer and was a prominent member of the Kansas City squad with whom he won the Western Conference and the U.S. Open Cup in 2004.
Jewsbury has amassed 73 appearances for the Timbers, scoring 10 times.
Though captaincy was transfered to Will Johnson in 2013, Jewsbury has shown his versatility of late, finding a home at right back. His tenacious "never say die" mentality has made him a fan favorite during his stint with the Timbers, and he has truly been the face of the club in the MLS era.
4. Willie Donachie, Left Back
As a mobile left back with an extensive history abroad, Willie Donachie makes this list at the number four slot. After playing 12 seasons and amassing 351 appearances for Manchester City, Donachie brought a wealth of experience to the left side of the Timbers defense.
A Scottish national, Donachie was sold by the Timbers after 60 appearances for £200,000 in 1981, only to rejoin the squad a year later for one more season and 31 appearances.
Donachie was also an incredible assist man, chalking up 20 during his time in the Rose City.
His quality was admired throughout the league, and his 35 caps with Scotland indicate how good he truly was.
3. John Bain, Midfielder
John Bain worked tirelessly for the Timbers in the center of the pitch from 1978 to 1982. Though a native of Scotland, Bain spent the vast majority of his career across the pond, including five seasons with the Timbers and 16 total in the United States.
Bain holds a special place in Timbers history as the club's all-time leading scorer with 45 goals, and the team's leading assist man with 51. He was a consistent member of the starting 11, accumulating 146 appearances for the Timbers, good for second best in club history.
Timbers fans might remember, however, that Bain left the Timbers to play for their rivals, the Seattle Sounders, thus beginning the decline of a once promising career.
2. Peter Withe, Striker
Peter Withe's brief Timbers career accurately portrayed what a talented finisher he was. In just 22 games with the club during their inaugural season in the NASL, Withe scored 16 times and chipped in six assists.
These statistics alone might be enough to place Withe at the number two slot, but his goal scoring abilities continued throughout his entire career.
Withe spent the largest portion of his career with Aston Villa, with whom the striker won the European cup in 1982 and scored his side's only goal in the victory. His contributions were rewarded as Withe earned 11 caps for England, scoring one goal along the way. His exploits even earned Withe a trip to the 1982 World Cup in Spain, a first for an Aston Villa player.
Withe transitioned well from player to manager, successfully leading both Indonesia and Thailand to ASEAN football championships.
Ultimately, his goal scoring record during the first Timbers season lead the team to a 1975 NASL finals appearance, securing his place as the second best Timbers player in club history.
1. Robert Rensenbrink, Winger
The title of best player in club history must go to Dutch winger Rob Rensenbrink. No other player can match his credentials, though he only spent a brief season in Portland.
Rensenbrink was a quick, technically gifted midfielder, coasting up and down the left flank with ease. His single season with the Timbers saw him record six goals and one assist in just 18 games.
It is Rensenbrink's prior accolades that set him apart. As a member of the Netherlands team, with whom he won 46 caps and scored 14 goals, Rensenbrink competed in two World Cup finals. He played on the left wing, scoring a hat trick against Iran in his side's opening game of the 1978 World Cup.
His 1974 and 1978 World Cup runners up medals would certainly be enough to solidify his number one ranking, but that only scratches the surface of his accomplishments.
A member of the fabled Belgian side Anderlecht, Rensenbrink won the very first Onze d'Or award in 1976, given to the best European league-based player of the year. Rensenbrink is a legend in Belgium, where he scored 143 goals in 262 appearances for Anderlecht.
Rensenbrink was a creative dribbler and a calm finisher, famously missing just two penalty kicks his entire career. The goal scorer was not short in confidence either, reportedly telling keepers where he was going to place the ball before taking each spot kick.
Though I don't know what they are saying in the video above, I think it roughly translates to, "Rensenbrink was a boss."