In Portland, Larrys Mabiala has found a home. Now he aims to add an MLS Cup. – Athleticism

Larrys Mabiala’s tenure at Timbers was almost over before he really started. He felt at home in Portland from the start. The Congolese international was keen to test himself in a league outside of Europe and prove to himself that he could stay in good health and become a first-choice holder. Check and verify. He appreciated the slower pace of life in the Northwest; he even liked the rain. And anyway, he’s an easy going person by nature.

“I can always be happy,” Mabiala said. “I’m the kind of person who can live anywhere. All over. I don’t necessarily go out or eat in restaurants or things like that. So it’s easy for me to acclimatize.

The problem is that his wife was unhappy, and for understandable reasons. She was pregnant with their third child at the time and was isolated from their support system in a strange town thousands of miles from her home.

“After about six months, I walked into (CEO) Gavin Wilkinson’s office and thought, I think we should be looking at a trade,” Mabiala recalls. “My wife is not happy. My life is getting more difficult. I think we need a change.

Wilkinson encouraged Mabiala and her family to hang in there at least a little longer, just to see if they could settle down. Over four years later, everyone involved is happy they did.

“Now she loves it,” Mabiala said. “Suddenly the baby was born and everything was fine. She is happy here. My children are happy here.

Few players today approach the prospect of a home league game with more pleasure than Mabiala. And fewer players than him played a more direct role in putting the Timbers in that position.

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