Portland soccer star Steven Evans remembers his childhood in East County

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP  - Troutdales Steven Evans races through the midfield during a match last summer. He has moved into a starters role with the Timbers reserves squad this year. For the Portland Timbers’ 21-year-old homegrown player, Steven Evans, holding a spot on the roster means more than being a part of a Major League Soccer contender, appearing on television or traveling across the country.

Because to Evans, being a Timber is not about the salary or playing in the $36.7 million renovated Jeld-Wen stadium. It’s about riling up 4,000 spirited Timbers Army fans, it’s about making a difference in the community and it’s about having some of the league’s best players as teammates and mentors.

And, in the eyes of coaches, players and fans, Evans is exactly the type of person you want sporting the ponderosa and moss green jersey.

He’s the all-American, pick yourself up by your bootstraps player, who didn’t train abroad or attend prestigious national soccer academies. Evans started in local kick-and-chase leagues, practicing after school against his living room wall and working his way up to club teams. Not unlike the Timbers, Evans is an underdog that has risen to prominence with hard work and patience.

After playing in recreational leagues, Evans’s competitive career began at age nine at Eastside United FC. There, he was placed as a midfielder for his speed—a position he continues to play today.

Jacob Campbell, a Tigard resident, played with Evans on the Eastside team for 8 years and described him as an ideal teammate and friend.

“The best way to describe Steven as a player is smart, strong and technical. I’ve never seen him lose focus on the field,” Campbell said. “He makes other players better, and playing with Steven on Eastside was the best youth soccer experience I could have had.”

Evans continued with Eastside into high school, while also playing at Sam Barlow High his freshman year before finishing his prep career at Central Catholic.

During that time, Evans led his Eastside team to win the U.S. Youth U-18 national championship in 2010, and Central to win the state championship in 2007.

His senior year of high school he also joined the U-23 Timbers team where he continued after he graduated and went on to play for the University of Portland Pilots. While with the Pilots, he was a three-time All-West Coast Conference selection player and finished second in the conference in goals scored his junior year.

Not only was it impressive for Evans to make it on the soccer team, but becoming a student at the University of Portland was a feat as well. Evans is the first in his family to attend college, which was made possible by both his 3.93 high school grade point average and soccer stardom.

“My parents told me: you’re not going to college unless you get a soccer scholarship,” Evans said.

But Evans’s college career was cut short when he left the Pilots after his junior year to play for the Timbers.

“I’d like to say it was a hard to leave college, but it was a pretty easy decision because it’s what I always wanted to do,” Evans said. “Maybe I’ll go back in the future, but for now I’m focused on the Timbers.”

Despite his local prestige, Evans said he has never lost sight of his roots in East County.

Growing up around Portland and Troutdale, Evans knows his fans, their city and their team.

He was raised going to Buffalo Wild Wings in Troutdale for Chipotle BBQ wings and a basket of potato wedges. During the summer vacations from Parkrose and Walt Morey middle schools, Evans skateboarded to the Sandy River and played soccer on Barlow’s field.

He was also a regular at what was then PGE stadium, cheering on Timbers soccer and Central Catholic High School football games in the same stands now filled with his own fans.Because he knows and cares about his community, Evans said he has continually given back to the town and people that raised him.

During high school, Evans volunteered with a variety of local nonprofits including the Blanchet House and Special Olympics. This year, Evans coaches two youth soccer teams in his spare time and is involved in team-sponsored community outreach events. In fact, one of Evans’s favorite memories with the Timbers is when the team participated in a Make-A-Wish Foundation soccer match for a local child diagnosed with cancer this year.

“It was the most moving event I had ever witnessed because of all the support from the community and everyone involved,” Evans said. “I think that it was pretty eye opening and showed just how much impact we have on everything around us.”

Evans’s younger brother, Nick, 15, who is also a successful soccer player, said having Evans as an older brother is inspiring.

“He’s always been a great leader and brother,” Nicholas said. “We played soccer a lot together when I was younger and that’s why I am where I am now.”

Amidst his many commitments, Evans said, aside from family, soccer is number one. He works hard to improve and realizes he has a long way to go in his soccer career.

“I have a lot I need to work on myself,” Evans said. “If I was that good, I would be the starter.”

Until then, Evans will wear his number 15 jersey into the Timbers’ fan-filled stadium, entering not as the best player, but a beloved local one with a promising future.

He is a regular for the Timbers reserves team, which holds a 4-3-2 record this summer with five matches remaining. The reserves squad is next in action Saturday, Aug. 31, at Real Salt Lake before the teams switch home fields for a game at Jeld-Wen at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8.

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