PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - While much of the soccer world focused on the World Cup, Nigerian striker Fanendo Adi concentrated on putting together boxes of food to donate to needy families in Portland.
Adi is settling into his new roles - both on the field and off - with the Timbers, who acquired him on loan from FC Copenhagen last month.
“I feel very comfortable in Portland, very comfortable with the team,” he said. “I’m having fun.”
In addition to volunteer work in his new city, Adi contributed to his new team with a pair of goals in each of his first two starts with the club. He is the first Timber with two braces in a single season.
The 6-foot-4 forward has four goals and two assists in just six matches for the Timbers, who were 4-4-8 and in sixth place in the Western Conference heading into Major League Soccer’s World Cup break.
Adi has helped create space for midfielders Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe, giving both a big target in the box.
“That’s what I am here for. I’m just here to contribute as much as I can to the team. It’s all about the team, not about an individual player,” he said. “My work is to come in at any time I’m given the opportunity and help the team.”
Following a pair of goals in Portland’s 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake earlier this month, Adi earned MLS Player of the Week honors.
“He’s not just helping me. He’s helping the team,” Valeri said. “His job is very important: We need what Adi is bringing. He is very strong in the box.”
Valeri and Adi both spent an afternoon this week helping pack food boxes at the Portland Police Department’s Sunshine Division.
The event was part of Stand Together Week, a collaboration between the Timbers, the Portland Thorns of the NWSL, the staffs of both teams, sponsors, former players and fans.
Hands On Greater Portland works with the two teams each year to help out organizations across the region, with the focus mostly on youth and the environment. Over the past two years participants have donated 4,212 volunteer hours to more than 30 nonprofits.
Adi took time out from watching the World Cup - he’s rooting for his native Nigeria - to help out. He said his focus has been on soccer, so he really hasn’t had much of a chance to get out and meet fans in Portland.
There is one thing looming for Adi in his adopted city: He has less than two months on his loan from FC Copenhagen.
He said he would be agreeable to a deal to keep him in Portland and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson has said that he’d like to have Adi through the season. Only time will tell.
Coach Caleb Porter likes what Adi brings to the Timbers, who also have experienced strikers Gaston Fernandez and Maximiliano Urruti .
“His air play and ability to hold the ball as more of a target option will complement the qualities of our other players while providing a different dimension to our attack,” Porter said.
The Timbers, working during the break on shoring up their defense, return to MLS play on June 27 against Kansas City. With 18 regular-season matches left, there is still plenty of time to get in position for the playoffs: Last season Portland finished atop the Western Conference and advanced to the conference championship, where it fell to Real Salt Lake.
“This team has grown, they’ve built a lot of resiliency,” Porter said. “In the end, I think it’s actually going to help us get to where we want to get because of what we’ve gone through. We’ve grown, we’ve gotten stronger. We’ve gotten humbled, we’ve gotten hardened, we’ve gotten even a little bit more hungry because of it, and we are still right there.”
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