Portland Timbers draft forward Ben Polk with No. 20 pick in 2016 MLS SuperDraft – http://bit.ly/1Pw4sNH
The Portland Timbers have drafted forward Ben Polk out of Syracuse University with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
After spending two years at the community college level, Polk made the move to Syracuse University ahead of the 2015 season. Polk, who has been compared to Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer by some analysts, started 22 games for Syracuse last fall, recording 12 goals and four assists.
“He’s athletic,” said Timbers coach Caleb Porter in a phone interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive. “He primarily played as a central striker and scored goals at a good program at Syracuse. We feel like he can play on the wing as well. He’s mature mentally and physically. He’ll have a shot to compete for depth on the front line.”
Polk, who attended Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft at the Baltimore Convention Center, said that hearing his name called and being drafted by a successful organization like the Timbers was a dream come true.
“It’s definitely a surreal experience,” said Polk in a phone interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive. “I’m so grateful. I’m so excited to go to such a great team, the MLS Cup Champions, and I’m just ready to start working.”
The 23-year-old said he is a strong player that prides himself on his work ethic. He said that he’s excited to learn from his coaches and teammates in Portland.
Polk has already signed a contract with MLS, so he will take up a spot on Portland’s first team roster.
“I’m a strong, dynamic and honest player,” Polk said. “I’ll work hard. I’m willing to learn and hopefully I’ll score some goals.”
Porter said the Timbers entered the draft hoping to pick up a player that could give them some more depth on the wing following the departure of former winger Rodney Wallace.
Still, while Porter said that Polk will be given a chance in preseason to compete for a depth spot along the front line with the first team, he said that the club is still planning to sign another proven winger and is not planning to rely on their draft picks to play any significant minutes with the first team this season.
Going into the draft, Porter said that Portland’s goal would be to pick a player at No. 20 that could play a role with the first team down the road. Polk will likely see minutes and develop this season with T2, the club’s USL team.
“If you can get a guy at No. 20 that sticks on the roster and eventually plays, then the draft is a success,” Porter said. “With any of these picks, as late as we had them, they’re going to be longer-term projects.”
Polk is used to overcoming challenges and said he is ready to put in the necessary work in Portland.
Polk had a turbulent childhood. The forward was born in Phoenix, Arizona, moved to the Middle East at the age of six and later settled in Banbury, England with his mother. His mother had a drinking problem, which hurt his ability to stay committed to his soccer career growing up.
Still, he continued to play soccer and, with the help of a teacher, managed to leave England after high school to compete in the United States at the community college level. From there, he was scouted by Syracuse.
“I’m so grateful for the people that have supported me throughout the hard times and the tough times,” Polk said. “I’m ready to take the next step.”
Polk said that he didn’t have a chance to meet with the Timbers while he was at the MLS Player Combine in Florida last week and didn’t know that the club was planning to draft him.
But he couldn’t be happier to be going to Portland.
“I was a little bit naïve about MLS growing up in England, but obviously they are a great team, MLS Cup Champions,” Polk said. “I’ve read all about their fan base, the Timbers Army, and I’m so excited to get to work.”
Polk was one of two forwards that the Timbers drafted Thursday. The club picked up Neco Brett out of Robert Morris University with the No. 40 overall pick.
Rounds three and four of the MLS SuperDraft will take place via conference call on January 19. The Timbers will pick No. 20 in each round.
— Jamie Goldberg | firstname.lastname@example.org
503-853-3761 | @jamiebgoldberg
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