Portland Timbers: Tega Ikoba Reopening His USL Championship Account Is Nothing But Positive

The Timbers homegrown signing scored his first goal in Indianapolis this season since being loaned out. His success on loan this season seems crucial for his future in Portland.

Timbers loanee Tega Ikoba earned his first goal of the season over the weekend. His first goal stateside since last September against the Houston Dynamo 2 in MLS Next Pro.

With hopefully more to come for one of the Timbers most involved former academy player in recent years. So we can hopefully see the now 20-year-old Ikoba earning first team minutes in the near future.

Portland's history with academy, homegrown & young players is blotched to say the least. Unlike some MLS clubs such as FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union or the Chicago Fire cleaning up with record outbound transfer fees to Europe.

Developing home grown players like Brenden & Paxton Aaronson & Gabriel Slonina or discovering young talent abroad & developing them in MLS like Jhon Duran, Djordje Petrovic or Taty Castellanos.

Even though it has been a beautiful next step in Major League Soccer's growth as a globally recognized for purchasing talent at a slight bargain than that of Europe's top-5 leagues.

The Timbers have done a good job with utilizing U-22 signings like Santi Moreno & Juan Mosquera in recent years. Plucking them from what has historically proven to be a fertile ground for talent in Colombia's top flight.

Though even with both players current development seemingly on schedule. Their ultimate success at the club or potential profit making moves seem far far away at the moment.

Of course developing home growns for sale isn't synonymous with success in MLS. Just ask the Columbus Crew or on the other side of that coin FC Dallas. But, home grown inclusion in the first team & even past that, making an impact on the field can be a game changer in multiple ways.

Like a boost in ticket or jersey sales & ultimately fan morale. Which as we've seen recently in Portland, can be more valuable than money can be. But can Ikoba's loan move back to the USL Championship be the next step in getting a former academy player to make an impact in the first team?

I think he is the best shot Timbers fans in favor of such a thing have at the moment. With recent homegrown signing Sawyer Jura following in similar footsteps to that of Ikoba. Though likely still some time away before we see him in a meaningful match for Portland.

As for Ikoba, there is a lot to like when it comes to him developing at the USL Championship level. He has good speed & is physically imposing. And lest we forget this goal from last season, his first in MLS.

Also, loan moves are meant to give players experience and if you're lucky, a confidence boost. With Ikoba slated to remain with Indy Eleven for the remainder of the season.

Barring Portland recalling him as they did with Hunter Sulte last month when their recently acquired deep goalkeepers stable suddenly dried up overnight with international call ups & injuries.

With the possibility of Ikoba moving on from Portland after the 2024 season, when his MLS home grown contract expires. I think there is hope on both sides for this loan spell to pan out. Saturday's equalizer against the Charleston Battery is a great start.