This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
It's official: The Portland Timbers have a new lumberjack center back.
The deal first reported by SI.com Thursday that Real Salt Lake was trading linchpin Nat Borchers to Portland was made official Monday morning during Major League Soccer's first trade-window opening of the offseason. In exchange for the 33-year-old defender, who spent the last seven years as part of RSL's back line, the club received an undisclosed amount of allocation money. Per club and league policy, the amount of money received in the deal will not be disclosed.
As RSL prepares for Wednesday's Expansion Draft in which New York City FC and Orlando City will have the opportunity to pick players off rosters throughout the league, the list drawn up by RSL did not feature Borchers. RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey said the list which is expected to be unveiled later Monday was pieced together largely by asset value. Once the list was settled, the front office took to the market place to see which teams would be interested in Borchers, who departs the club tied for second on the clubs' all-time appearance list with 205.
"Nat didn't want to go," Lagerwey told the Tribune. "Nat's first choice was to stay, but we could not work out a way for him to stay. We want folks to understand that going was not his first preference and our goal was to include him in the process as to where he was going to go."
If not traded, Borchers would have been an early Expansion Draft pick by either NYCFC or Orlando, Lagerwey said, so feelers were put out. Portland, a team RSL has dealt with in the past when it traded Will Johnson there in the 2012 offseason, had an obvious need at center back after conceding 52 goals in 34 matches in 2014.
"We had three teams that were interested in Nat," Lagerwey said. "We let Nat decide where he wanted to go."
Borchers was acquired by RSL in February 2008 when he went through the MLS Player Allocation Lottery after two years with Odd Grenland in Norway's First Division. He was named part of the MLS' Best XI in 2010 along with former center back partner Jamison Olave and midfielder Javier Morales. He ranks tied for second in club history with Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando in all-time appearances and helped RSL to its first MLS Cup title in 2009.
UPDATE: Just got off the phone with Borchers. Here's a brief rundown of our interview.
-You had the chance to choose where you'd end up once you knew you were being traded, why Portland?
Borchers: "I think that RSL were truly gracious to let me choose my next opportunity because a lot clubs wouldn't have allowed a player to do that. It was really, I think, tremendous of them to do that. Why Portland? I think I've admired that team from afar for a few seasons now. I really like their style of play. I really like what the kind of identity that team has and I think they've got some really good players that can really change games and I looked at that opportunity and I think that given all the other opportunities I had this was the best."
Will Johnson went through a similar process in 2012. Was Will being in Portland a factor in your decision?
Borchers: "I think it was definitely a factor. I spoke to Will on the phone before about making this decision. He's been treated very well by that club. He's performed very well, obviously. He's made that transition from being a good player at RSL to being at another club. His experience was very important for me to understand. Obviously I made a very good decision because Portland's a great club to play for."
Have you had time to process at all the end of this chapter of your career at RSL?
Borchers: "I don't feel like I have that thought yet. Things move so quickly, as they do in this business. I can't really say I've had time to reflect on it yet. When I do have time it's going to be very emotional. To spend seven years at a club and have that amount of time to build those relationships with players and staff and fans, not many players get to do that. I think it's going to be extremely difficult to leave not just RSL, but Utah. My wife and I have been here a long time and we feel like we were treated very well. We're indebted to this community."
It's been a while since you've had to experience this process, how will you handle it?
Borchers: "Everything happened so quickly with this process. It really hasn't had time to settle in. I don't know when it will probably when we pack up all our stuff and move it out of our house and get out on the road and move into our new house in Portland. Once the season starts, I'm going to be walking out of the tunnel and it's not going to be Rio Tinto Stadium. That's when it's going to be very emotional for me."
What memories will stand out during your time with RSL?
Borchers: "There's a lot of special memories. A special memory every single season we've had here in terms of our accomplishments as a group. What I'll remember most about this team and what we did together was our collective belief in each other. It was amazing the kind of bond we built together, between the players and coaches, to bounce back after tough losses, to bounce back after going down. Just the positive energy we always had."
How long will it take for the Lumberjack analogy to take hold?
Borchers: "The more inevitability was that The Beard would end up in Portland. It's the Pacific Northwest. It only seems right. It's definitely more than just a coincidence."
You are or were a long-time subscriber of The Salt Lake Tribune. Will you now become a subscriber of The Oregonian?
Borchers:: "I may have to keep the Tribune subscription just so I can keep you employed."