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Soccer is in his blood

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Warner Pacific College and youth soccer coach Bernie Fagan continues to be a fixture in the sport in Portland,  where he has been since joining the Timbers in 1980.Bernie Fagan has been around Portland soccer long enough to remember the North American Soccer League, Mick Poole, Civic Stadium, the New York Cosmos, Timber Jim, Franz Beckenbauer, Clyde Best, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Salty Shirley Sullivan, Timber Juice and the great Graham Day.

Fagan’s Portland roots go back to 1980, the first of his three years playing with the NASL Timbers in their first incarnation in the City of Roses.

The former defender from Sunderland, England, has been involved in soccer here as a player, coach, administrator and camp instructor for more than 30 years. And at 64, he is still going strong.

“Bernie has been doing it as long as anyone in town,” says another old-timer, John Bain, a former Timbers player and head coach who is director of operations for the Westside Timbers Soccer Club.

Longer, actually. Once he retired from playing after the 1982 season, Fagan moved into organizing and coaching youth soccer with a former teammate, the late Clive Charles, in the old Fred Meyer camps.

Today, Fagan runs his own series of weeklong youth camps in the city of Portland, operates the Oregon Soccer Academy, serves as president of the Oregon Premier League, will soon begin his 26th season as head men’s coach at Warner Pacific, and joins with Bain and another ex-player, Mick Hoban, as ambassadors for the current Timbers of Major League Soccer.

“It’s busy, but I like being busy,” Fagan says during a break at a recent youth camp at Wallace Park. “What else am I going to do? I’m in pretty good shape. I don’t have any major physical problems. As long as I have the energy. ...”

The 5-10 Fagan looks fit and, at 175 pounds, is close to fighting weight during his days patrolling the field for the Timbers in the early ‘80s. Activity, he believes, helps keep him young.

“I’m not a person who sits around,” he says. “I’m always on the move.”

His eight club teams are playing games Monday through Thursday nights. Coaching the Knights is a year-round job, really. To get away, Bernie and wife Susan occasionally will take their dogs to the Oregon Coast for a three-day vacation.

Is all of this as much fun for Fagan as it always was?

“I wouldn’t say it’s as much fun,” he admits. “Before, you’re trying to make a name for yourself.”

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Bernie Fagan is involved with eight youth club teams but says his first love continues to be coaching the Warner Pacific Knights mens team, a member of the Cascade Collegiate Conference.No need for that now. Fagan’s name is synonymous with soccer in the area. His eight weeks of city youth camps this summer will offer instruction to about 350 kids.

Ironically, Fagan now faces competition from the Timbers, who have taken over the Oregon Youth Soccer Association, have five affiliated clubs throughout the state and are a natural lure to youths and parents deciding which camps to attend and clubs to join.

“It bothers me, but it’s inevitable,” he says. “That’s the way it happened in Seattle, in Kansas City ... everyone has their finger in all the pies. The Timbers are a big thing in Portland. They command a lot of respect and do well. I’ve lost some traction because of that, but that’s just the reality of where we are. We’ll be fine. Our niche is still here.”

Fagan’s Oregon Premier League featured eight classic teams for boys and girls ages 10 to 18, with practice and games held at West Hills Christian School on Southwest Capitol Hill Road. Wife Susan helps him run the OPL out of their Alameda-area home.

Then there is Fagan’s Warner Pacific NAIA program. “It’s my first love, really,” says Fagan, 253-175-35 during his time coaching the Knights.

Fagan almost wound up as head coach at the University of Portland when Mike Davis left the position in 1989.

“Harry Merlo and Earl Chiles wanted me to be the coach,” Fagan says. “They offered me $28,000. I was getting $36,000 from Warner Pacific. I called Clive and said, ‘You go apply for that job.’ ”

The rest is history. Charles, who died of cancer in 2003, developed the UP men’s and women’s programs into national powers, taking the women to the NCAA championship his final season in 2002.

Fagan has continued working with his club teams and camps through the years — he also conducts a summer camp for the Multnomah Athletic Club — and has been the common denominator for growth of his sport in the Portland area.

“I don’t think he has slowed down,” says Bain, who coached the Timbers in 1989 and ‘90 and also coached the indoor Portland Pride from 1993-96. “Bernie loves being involved with soccer. He has always been an outgoing, friendly, happy guy, an ambassador for his sport.

“Bernie and Clive co-coached the FC Portland teams in the late ‘80s and were involved in getting youth soccer off the ground in the ‘80 and ‘90s. Bernie put Warner Pacific on the map with some national recognition. He started the Oregon Soccer Academy for the younger kids. Bernie, Clive and (ex-Timber) Jimmy Conway were hugely involved in the early years, along with Mick and Willie Anderson and Brian Gant and Tony Betts. Six or seven (of the former Timbers) hung around and were instrumental in getting the sport really entrenched here.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers



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