Forgive Mountain View High soccer coach Chris Rogers if he is less than devastated that the junior who would have been his top returning player for 2012, Logan Riemhofer, is not going to be in a Cougar uniform this fall.
Riemhofer, an all-Intermountain Conference first-team selection last season, is one of three Central Oregon boys soccer players selected to join the Portland Timbers Youth Academy. Riemhofer, Bend High’s Eli Kilmer and Redmond High’s Miguel Martin — three of the best players in the area — will play a 10-month, 35-game schedule for the Timbers’ under-16 team this season instead of suiting up for their respective high schools.
“For me it’s a no-brainer,” Rogers says about Riemhofer’s decision to give up his last two years of high school soccer to train and compete in a developmental program that is part of Portland’s Major League Soccer franchise.
“As bad as you want him to stay and play for you, (the academy) is so much more important a place to go for his development. I told him if I had that chance (in high school) I would have jumped at the opportunity,” he added.
In its first year, the Portland Timbers Youth Academy is set to have two teams — U16 and U18 — made up of the best players in the state. The Timbers’ youth squads will compete against other MLS academy teams in a season modeled on the top professional leagues in the world.
“This is the absolutely best thing for American soccer,” Rogers says. “We’re finally doing what the rest of the world has done for the past 50 years.”
The decision to join the Timbers program was an easy one for Riemhofer, even if it meant giving up a chance to help the Cougars win their third consecutive IMC title.
“It’s a big step up from some of the soccer I’ve played, and I want to be part of that,” says Riemhofer, who will be one of approximately 40 players on the two elite academy teams. “It’s always hard to lose the high school part (of playing soccer), but this is a really big opportunity. It was never really too hard of a decision.”
Popular with the players chosen for the program, the academy has drawn mixed reviews from high school coaches and athletic directors. A vocal group of coaches in the Portland area have decried the Timbers Academy as the end of high school soccer as we know it — “With the Timbers Academy, we’re seeing the birth of the zero-sport athlete,” Jesuit High athletic director Mike Hughes told the Portland Tribune — and even those who support the academy concept question what kind of toll traveling to Portland four days a week will have on young athletes, and the families of those young athletes, who don’t live nearby.
“There’s always a concern when you’re uprooting a kid,” says Bend High coach Nils Eriksson. “Eventually these (Central Oregon) kids are going to need to live in Portland. ... That happens in elite sports. The bottom line is it’s got to be great for the kid. It depends on each situation, but most of these (high-level soccer) kids are so into (the academy) it’ll be a great thing for them.”
Rogers acknowledges that his Mountain View team’s quest for another league title will undoubtably be tougher without its star midfielder. But he says a bigger picture must be taken into consideration.
“I want him to play for that team (the Timbers’ MLS club),” Rogers says. “I want to watch him play professionally and know I did everything I could to help him along the way.”
The best of last week’s prep action:
Athlete of the week: Sisters running back Ethan Luloff rushed for 235 yards and scored four touchdowns — three rushing and one on a kickoff return — Friday night to lead the Outlaws to a 39-16 nonconference football win over McLoughlin High in Milton-Freewater.
Game of the week: Summit football topped visiting North Eugene in triple overtime Friday, 30-22, giving Joe Padilla a win in his first game as the Storm’s head coach. Running back J.T. Evans rushed for 193 yards and one touchdown, and the Summit defense forced three turnovers in the season-opening victory.
Contests to watch this week:
Sherwood at Summit girls soccer, 4 p.m. — The Storm host the reigning Class 5A state champions; Summit defeated Sherwood in the 2010 state final.
West Albany at Summit volleyball, 6:30 p.m. — This is a rematch of last year’s 5A state finalists; both teams are favored to play deep into the state playoffs again in 2012.
Redmond at Ridgeview volleyball, 6 p.m. — The Panthers and their new crosstown rivals, the Ravens, face off for the first time in an athletic contest. Ridgeview actually has more experience heading into this season, as the majority of players from Redmond High’s 2011 team now attend Redmond’s new high school.
Century at Mountain View football, 7 p.m. — The reigning Class 5A state champions entertain the Class 6A Jaguars in their home opener after defeating Lebanon 35-21 in their season debut last week. Century is also 1-0 following its 62-35 victory over Portland’s Lincoln High on Friday.
Be sure to check out The Bulletin’s new weekly prep slide show at www.bendbulletin.com/preppics.