Kalif Alhassan's off-season work pays off in epic 2012 debut

Published on: 16 March 2012

And when Portland Timbers midfielder Kalif Alhassan looked around and saw stiff competition at the midfield wings entering this season, the 21-year-old took matters into his own hands.

Having worked out during the offseason with his former club in Ghana, the Liberty Professionals of his native country’s GLO Premier League, Alhassan reported to his second MLS season ready to re-secure his spot after starting 27 games in Portland's midfield last year.

On Monday, in the Timbers’ season opener against Philadelphia at JELD-WEN Field, Alhassan let his work on the field do the talking.

He recorded an assist and scored Portland’s third goal in a 3-1 victory, his first tally in a Timbers uniform.

And for his efforts, he was named the MLS Player of the Week by the North American Soccer Reporters on Tuesday, the first time a Timbers player has received the honor.

“I would say hard work,” Alhassan said of what the differences between the two seasons have been. “We’ve been working out throughout the preseason.”

Still, Alhassan may have benefited from a little luck for the opportunity to start Monday night.

Newly acquired Cameroonian midfielder Franck Songo’o was expected to be on the field before he suffered a knee injury and then left the team for Spain to deal with visa issues.

But Alhassan’s complete performance showed he’s ready to improve on his rookie season, when he recorded five assists by June but only one after that.

“I would say I feel better because John [Spencer, Timbers head coach] has given me the license to express myself in the context of the offense,” Alhassan said.

Portland’s midfield situation has been a source of much discussion among media and competition among players.

On Monday, Alhassan started on the right wing, with Designated Player Diego Chara and captain Jack Jewsbury in the middle, and Eric Alexander on the left.

With Songo’o back with the team, along with Sal Zizzo, who has been cleared to train after recovering from knee surgery, Alhassan’s spot in the starting 11 is anything but assured.

For now, Alhassan will enjoy his first goal, a looping right-footed chip from the wing that fooled Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath just enough to sail to the back of the net.

“It was great,” Alhassan said.

“We just wanted to get that three points. And I think as individuals and as a collective, we worked hard. I would say this league is very, very tough. And having a great game Monday is great.”

WATCH: Alhassan named MLS Player of the Week


  • selim
    says: 7 years ago
    Looks like i'm the first to post a comment. I'd suggest decency here, hurl no insults. The throwin of insults at eachother only tells the kind of person u are which u may deny. And well done Khalif. Thats an achievement already. Keep up the good work.
  • rambo spain
    says: 7 years ago
    keep it up boy,this boy is better than prince Tagoe and some of the black stars players.
    says: 7 years ago
  • Kwatriot
    says: 7 years ago
    There is abundant talent in Ghana but most of our players are too.... Timid to express their skills. Watch Zambia's demolition of Senegal, they are not players who play for the big teams but they play with a united heart and with passion for their country. A similar case could be said of the pharaohs as they rule africa for three consecutive years. No wonder the glo premier league produce Apuu players unfit even to be considered for trials in the black stars.