As a member of the Portland Timbers Academy, Blake Bodily was one of the first USL Academy signings by the Portland Timbers 2 in the club's inaugural 2015 season. | Photo courtesy Sam Ortega / Portland Timbers 2
Until recently, young soccer players from Idaho had a tough time seeing a path to professional soccer. Only one player from Idaho has ever played in an MLS match in former Toronto FC defender Logan Emory. But the path to the professional ranks from the Gem State for young players has recently shown the potential for growth, and perhaps no player better embodies that than Blake Bodily, the most recent Homegrown Signing by the Portland Timbers last Friday.
A native of Eagle, Idaho, Bodily left home at age 16 to join the Portland Timbers Youth Academy, one of the first two players from Idaho to do so. He impressed the coaching staff there immediately.
“Blake was always fast, technical, and could run forever, which terrorized teams,” said Portland Timbers Academy Head Coach Ryan Miller.
Just one year later at age 17, Bodily became an early USL Academy signing as Portland launched the Timbers 2 in the USL Championship in 2015. For the next three seasons, Bodily held his own in 35 appearances in the professional league, scoring four goals. Miller says that the experience of playing at a higher level of competition as a young player helped accelerate Bodily’s development.
“Blake’s Timbers 2 experience gave him early exposure to playing against bigger and faster competition prior to his first year at the University of Washington,” said Miller. “We believe this experience was critical to his success as a freshman, and expedited his process to signing a Homegrown contract.”
While competing for the University of Washington, Blake Bodily remained part of the Timbers' structure as he competed for the Timbers U23s in USL League Two. | Photo courtesy Kendrick Arakaki
The impact of Bodily's experience in the Championship was visible immediately. As a freshman he recorded three goals and eight assists to earn Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors, and his presence for the Huskies only grew from there. This past season as a junior, he bagged 12 goals in 16 games and took home the Pac-12 Player of the Year Award. In addition to his exploits at UW, he also played in USL League Two for the Portland Timbers U23s during the summer, continuing to test himself against other top talents while staying within the Timbers organization.
His year-on-year progression was continuously monitered by the Timbers technical staff, and led to Bodily becoming the third Timbers Academy prospect to sign as a Homegrown Player this preseason.
“We are excited to add a talented Homegrown player to the club in Blake,” said Portland Timbers General Manager and President of Soccer Gavin Wilkinson in the club's statement. “He already has experience playing with Timbers 2 during his time with the academy, and has excelled in his development at the collegiate level.”
Blake Bodily's experience in the USL Championship as a USL Academy signing helped propel him to a successful collegiate career that saw him earn Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2017, and Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2019. | Photo courtesy Eric Cech / Portl
“Having a vertical path within our organization is the reason Blake has been signed as a Homegrown,” said Miller. “Having our Academy, USL Championship, and [MLS] Team all training and operating daily at the same facility makes true player development possible.”
Changes in the landscape of American soccer allow players like Bodily to be discovered. In 2014, the Timbers forged a partnership with the Idaho Youth Soccer Association after being assigned the state as part of its Homegrown territory, offering players the chance to advance along a well-defined pathway to professional soccer within the same organization. Bodily’s progression from the Timbers Academy to the club’s USL Championship and USL League Two sides allowed him to develop in stages, and to compete at the professional level without losing his collegiate eligibility.
Now signed to an MLS contract, Bodily is likely to return on loan to Timbers 2 this season as he enters the professional ranks full time. With opportunities at so many levels available within the Timbers organization, he certainly shouldn't be the last player from Idaho that will get early chances in the USL Championship and League Two as they move up the ranks.
To learn more about USL Academy or the upcoming USL Academy Eastern Conference Event, visit usl-academy.com or search #USLAcademy on Twitter.