By NICHOLAS MURRAY - firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, March 14, 2016
During the offseason following his third All-League First Team selection for the Seattle Sounders in 2006, Andrew Gregor had a difficult question to ask of his club.
“I had an opportunity to come back to Portland and finish my college education,” Gregor said recently. “It was through a grant through the NCAA, which basically paid for everything. I was still under contract with Seattle, and I went to [Sounders Owner and General Manager] Adrian Hanauer and told him the situation, and he let me out of my contract and said, ‘if that’s what you need to do, it’s the right thing to do.’
“It worked out well. I came down to Portland and ended up playing with Portland that year, and then moving forward. On both ends, I have a lot of respect for both clubs managing that situation.”
Gregor went on to earn one more All-League selection that season for the Timbers as he also completed his degree in Sociology at his alma mater, the University of Portland. That in turn helped the Syracuse, N.Y. native move toward his post-playing career, which now sees him take the helm of the Portland Timbers 2 for their second season in the USL.
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An assistant coach with the team a year ago, Gregor was approached when Jay Vidovich moved on to the University of Pittsburgh this offseason. A former coach in the Timbers Academy, Gregor said he was honored the club asked him to step into his new position, as he continues to move up the coaching ladder.
“Moving from the Academy to assistant coach and then to take over for T2, I was honored and very excited, and at the same time a little bit nervous [for a] first professional coaching opportunity being the head coach,” Gregor said. “Once that passed, and I really got my head around the concept, I immediately became excited and hungry, and wanted to get it going. The support that the club has for me throughout my career has been fantastic, and I just hope I can do a good job to help support the club.”
T2 had an up-and-down inaugural season that saw the club finish eighth in the USL’s Western Conference. The side featured the league’s Rookie of the Year, Kharlton Belmar, and also got solid performances throughout the season from players like Andy Thoma, Fatawu Safiu and Nick Besler.
An offseason reshuffle of the roster will likely see a number of new faces expected to step up this year. Players like Safiu, Blair Gavin and Harrison Delbridge have moved on, as Gregor and the Timbers staff try to strike a balance between on-field success and giving the club’s best prospects a chance to thrive.
“You’ve got to have success on it, because as much as you want to keep the kids on the field to develop technically and tactically, you’ve got to teach them how to win as well, and you have to teach them how to lose, and do that properly,” Gregor said. “It’s a part of the development process.”
Finding success, and following teams like the LA, New York and Seattle into the playoffs, is certainly an expectation for the side this season. With that comes the pressure to win and advance, as the Timbers did in spectacular fashion at the MLS level last year on the way to the club’s first MLS Cup.“A successful season for Timbers 2 would at bare minimum be making it into the playoffs, giving us those competitive games,” Gregor said. “I think it’s a big challenge for us and a responsibility for us in T2 to develop some players and support the first team that way. We haven’t done it yet, and I think it’s something that we need to do, and is something that I hope I can spearhead in supporting the first team, so we have a competitive environment all the way through the club.”