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The Kids Are Alright

Mobi Rising: Fehr Hopes to Jumpstart Career in PDX

The United States youth international prepares for his first season in Major League Soccer, looking to break into Caleb Porter's revamped squad in Portland and build upon his promising career.

BY Josh Deaver Posted
January 25, 2013
6:53 AM
Mobi Fehr is ready to take the next step in a career that has already spanned the globe. The U-20 United States international, acquired by Portland Timbers on December 18, is the youngest member of a revamped Rose City side under the direction of U-23 National Team coach Caleb Porter. After struggling to find regular playing time in 2012, the 18-year-old center back is taking full advantage of the opportunity to prove himself to his new club.

“I’m excited. There are a lot of young players, great players. Caleb Porter, of course, I know his style of play, which is to pass the ball. I think that is great for me so I’m excited about coming into some games,” Fehr told ASN. “I know I’m the youngest but I am ready to prove myself.” Fehr was a mainstay for Wilmer Cabrera’s U-17 national ream side, playing every minute at center back during the 2011 World Cup. On the back of his strong performance, Mobi secured training stints at Fulham and FC Basel in Switzerland, where he transitioned from the backline into a defensive midfield role.

Fehr then landed with Belgian club Standard Liege, and although he impressed enough to warrant a spot on the club’s reserve side, it was a struggle for consistent minutes. He opted to return to FC Basel in late 2012, but the lack of playing time persisted. “It was a crazy year for me and my family when I went to Europe,” Fehr says. “In Belgium, for Standard Liege—the same thing happened at Basel—a lot of first team players came down [to the reserves] and I was the youngest and had no playing time. It was not really a great year.”

Fehr could have remained at Basel but opted instead to sign with Major League Soccer. Acquired through the weighted lottery, his trail to Portland was blazed during a short training stint with the club in late 2012, where he made a lasting impression with Timbers management. The club's general manager Gavin Wilkinson called Fehr “a young, versatile player with a great deal of ability,” adding, “we know him to be a quality player and look forward to seeing his continued development.”

Only a week into the preseason, Fehr is so far encouraged and excited to be part of a club whose possession-oriented, pass-heavy system is so conducive to his skill set. When asked about what he’s been told about his role for the upcoming campaign, Fehr indicated that he could be in line for some eventual first-team minutes.“Right now, I’m the youngest on the team,” he says. “[Porter] doesn’t see me as a starter right now, but in the coming months he wants to bring me into [the lineup]. My dream is to play in Europe in a couple of years and he said he would help me with that, to achieve my dreams”

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Born in New York City to a Swiss father and Japanese mother, Fehr’s long journey began in 2000, when his family moved to Tokyo. It was in Japan where the six-year old Fehr first developed an interest for the game. After years of recreational club team experience, at age 10, Fehr took part in a tryout to earn a coveted spot in the youth program for J-League side Tokyo Verdy. “There was an open tryout with 350 kids coming. They only took three and I was one of them,” Fehr explains casually. “Since I got in there it became my dream to be a soccer player.”

With continued success at Tokyo Verdy, Fehr eventually drew the attention of U.S. Soccer, who invited him to a U-17 training camp in August 2010. His impressive performance in tryouts and in an exhibition against Spain earned him a full-time spot in the Residency program where he emerged as a top defender during the 2011 cycle.

In February 2012, Fehr received his first experience with the U-20 side under head coach Tab Ramos. Barely 17 at the time and being, once again, the youngest member of the squad, Fehr did not feature in a lone scrimmage against FC Dallas reserves. Minus a single camp appearance in May for the U-18’s, he has not featured recently for the National Team.

Despite the setback, Fehr is confident that with consistent minutes, his time will come. “[After the February camp] Tab talked to me and said ‘you’re the youngest one here and we want to see your improvement in the upcoming months,’” Fehr said. “From there my agent talked to U.S. Soccer, who said I’m still in the plans. Hopefully before they get to the World Cup, I’ll get a chance to play with them again.”

In the meantime, Fehr believes the new look Timbers are primed to make some noise after a disappointing 2012 season. “I think the team is going to do great,” Fehr said. “There are a lot of good players. Caleb’s got it and right now the main focus is to possess the ball and he’s always keeps telling us that if we possess the ball we won’t lose the game. I think we can definitely make the playoffs if we do what we are doing right now.”

His ambition does not end in MLS, however. As someone who “loves to hold the ball”, Fehr can easily see his game translating to Spain, the “country of possession,” where he hopes to play in the not-too-distant future. A professional contract in Europe has long been the dream for Fehr. He spoke of his desire to begin playing professionally during his World Cup run, but now believes that MLS is the best environment to begin the process. “When I was in the National Team, my goal was to play in Europe,” Fehr said. “I was one of the younger ones on the U-17’s, so it was really hard. I was 16 and I was way too young to go into a professional environment. Now I’m 18 and I really wanted to step into a professional environment. I just want to become a professional first and experience a lot before I head back to Europe.”

Eager to impress for both club and country, Fehr remains cognizant that his success, much like that of a striker, is wholly dependent on finishing your chances. “Going abroad by myself and being in a professional environment, gave me a lot of experience of how players are on the road,” Fehr says. “Now, I realized that, anywhere in the world, there’s not a big difference in players level-wise. You get a chance to prove it or you don’t. That’s the life of the soccer player, if you get a chance you have to do your best and take the opportunity.”

Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him @USFootballGuy for daily updates and musings.

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