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Vytas Hoping Portland Timbers Experience Can Put Lithuania On Soccer Map

When you think about sports in Lithuania, usually you come up with past and current basketball stars including Portland Trail Blazers legend, Arvydas Sabonis. Vytautas Andriuskevicius hopes his strong showings with the Portland Timbers can change that perception and put Lithuania on the soccer map.

Andriuskevicius, who goes just by Vytas, joined the Timbers last July and did a good job after his arrival though he couldn’t do enough to lead Portland into the Major League Soccer playoffs.

“It’s so much better to be with the team at the start of the season after joining midway through last season,” Vytas told PortlandSports.com.

“Last year we had big expectations and none of them worked out. We didn’t make the playoffs which was a big disappointment. This year it’s interesting how the team is building and you can see the potential and we can start from zero again.”

The 26-year old Vytas is raring to get the 2017 MLS season under way, with the opener slated for March 3 at Providence Park against Minnesota United FC.

“I really can’t wait. Also just to see what the home opener is like here because I didn’t see it last year. I am very excited.”

Another big date is March 12, the Timbers’ first road game. Vytas and company are hoping to beat LA Galaxy and get a major monkey off their backs right away.

“We didn’t win a game on the road last season. We really just have to show good football like last year at home. And if we can win those road games then I am sure we will be in the playoffs and go for the title.”

Any attention Vytas can pick up with the Timbers might end up also pushing the awareness of Lithuanian soccer, which lags behind basketball in the country.

“Basketball is a really big deal in Lithuania. It’s like religion.”

The left back started to go to basketball when he was 5 years old but it was too far for his working parents to drive him to practice, so he ended up playing soccer with other classmates in his school instead. That’s when another journey started for Vytas, who moved to Poland when he was 18-years old. Things are starting to look a bit better for Lithuania – thanks to players like Vytas and his move to Portland.

“I hope I am making a good impression of us. Believe me, it’s really hard for our players to go to other places. We only have 3.5 million people in Lithuania so we don’t have a lot of players to choose from. And all of those players who play in Lithuania want to leave, but it’s not that easy.”

Vytas moved from Poland to Sweden before heading to the Netherlands and then joining the Timbers last summer – becoming the second Lithuanian in the MLS following current Lithuanian national team coach Edgaras Jankauskas with the New England Revolution in 2009. Vytas has enjoyed his time in the MLS, especially the attacking nature of the the league.

“I really like that I can go forward. As a soccer player you want to score, you want to win,” explained Vytas, whose goal against Seattle on August 28 was his first goal scored since the 2008-09 season when he was still in Lithuania with FBK Kaunas.

“I never really go for a goal. But I am sure it wasn’t my last goal.”

And it won’t be the last time Lithuania soccer gets a bit more attention, maybe even from some fans in Portland.

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David Hein
David Hein has covered and scouted European and international basketball since 2001. The great game has taken the Chicago native around the world and back. Hein writes for FIBA, FIBA Europe and EuroLeague while also publishing on his own website www.heinnews.com with a weekly international hoops podcast, Taking The Charge. He also writes a weekly youth basketball column for FIBA called David Hein’s Eye on the Future.
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