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Monday, April 23, 2012
Updated: April 25, 9:49 AM ET
Happiness in the Pacific Northwest

By Leander Schaerlaeckens
ESPN.com

Boyd
With three goals already, Kris Boyd has made his presence felt with the Timbers.

Listen to Kris Boyd. Listen carefully, or you won't be able to make out his Scottish accent, which contorts vowels into unfamiliar sounds made all the less comprehensible by the dead sprint at which he talks.

Listen to Boyd, the Portland Timbers' recently imported star striker, and hear a man who has found his bliss after an especially tumultuous chapter in a tumultuous career.

The all-time leading scorer in the Scottish Premier League by age 27, having bagged 164 goals in 10 seasons for Kilmarnock and Glasgow Rangers, Boyd is controversial in his homeland. At Rangers, he cycled in and out of the starting lineup, in spite of scoring 101 times in 143 league games, as he sought acceptance and appreciation for his outspoken character and unconventional style -- playing as an oversized poacher rather than a target man -- without ever quite finding it.

After the 2009-10 season, Rangers released the best striker in Scotland, who, at the time, was boycotting his national team over a feud with then-Scotland manager George Burley. Boyd signed with Middlesbrough of the English second tier Championship and flopped. A loan to Nottingham Forest in the same division did yield six goals in just 10 games. But in the summer of 2011, Boyd was off to Eskisehirspor in Turkey.

"I had a terrible time in Turkey," Boyd told ESPN.com in a phone conversation. "There were all sorts of problems for myself and the club. I couldn't play. It wasn't a nice environment. The players there don't know any different than the way they're being treated. It's a shame, there's some very good players there and they're being used.

"Money is being put in back pockets making it from the fans off players' backs. The way the club was run was a joke from top to bottom. It was in my best interest to get out of there."

Two games into his spell, Boyd sued Eskisehirspor over unpaid salary and won his release. And thus he wound up in Portland in January, allegedly turning down several Championship teams, plus Rangers and the Houston Dynamo.

The move wasn't straightforward. The Dynamo had put in a discovery claim on Boyd. Scottish-born Houston manager Dom Kinnear had asked his protege and Timbers head coach John Spencer, who played for Chelsea and Scotland himself, for information on Boyd. Spencer's brother-in-law, Billy Davies, had managed Boyd at Forest and raved about his work habits. But Boyd was concerned about the Texas climate. He'd visited in January and even then it had been hot. So his agent contacted Portland and a trade was made for his rights. He'd learned from his time in Turkey.

"It makes it a lot easier when you're moving when it's like home," said Boyd, becoming perhaps the first man to prefer the Pacific Northwest for its weather.

Spencer, for his part, had landed a striker who fit his system better than Boyd's predecessor.

"I felt last year we created an awful lot of chances and we needed a more traditional type of central forward to play inside the penalty area," Spencer said. "That's why we moved Kenny Cooper on, not because we didn't feel he was a good striker but because we felt we had enough people who ran the channels and we needed someone to play the point.

"It's been a good move for us. I've been in the game a long, long time. And I don't know if I've seen a better finisher  left and right foot  than this guy."

Kris Boyd
After he established himself as the all-time top goal scorer in Scottish Premier League history, Boyd spent time with Nottingham Forest.

Six games into his MLS career, Boyd already has notched three goals while a fourth (against the Los Angeles Galaxy) was wrongly disallowed in spite of getting few chances on a team that has struggled early.

"Our service and ability to get him the ball in the box hasn't been the greatest," said Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins. "But the guy is still capable of getting in there and being dangerous."

If he had more prestigious choices than the Timbers, Boyd had had such a wretched time in Turkey that he sought no more than to find happiness in his next destination, believing that the Timbers were best positioned to provide it.

"That was the most important thing for me, to get back to playing and enjoying the game," Boyd said. "To play a sport you need to a enjoy it. I jumped at the chance to come here and get back to loving the game. That was the most important thing to me. I learned from it and realized the most important thing for me is to be happy in life.

"I'm a pretty constant guy but there's times in your career like in Turkey when you feel like everything's against you. In a football career it's like a rollercoaster and sometimes you're high and sometimes you're at rock bottom. I had to find a situation where I'm happy and my family is happy. I've found that here. It's been great and long may it continue."

His newfound contentedness has allowed him to integrate into the team and mentor the younger players.

"He's been a different class in the locker room, he's been brilliant," Spencer said. "Kris Boyd is as a blue-collar designated player. You couldn't not like him, spending time with him."

Perkins has seen the same thing.

"From a personality perspective I've really seen him brighten up in the last couple of weeks in feeling he's part of the team," Perkins said. "He's always cracking jokes with a lot of guys and really gets along with everyone. He's like a big kid."

It's customary for professional athletes to say nice things about their employers, a perfunctory shout-out to whoever is paying their bills at that point in time. But when Boyd raves about his new team, his new city, the atmosphere in the stadium, his manager an unmistakable sincere gratitude seeps through. The words "great," "magnificent" and "tremendous" come up again and again, with requisite rolling "R" -- an appreciation for having been brought in from the cold and folded into a situation ideal to his condition.

Early returns suggest theirs is a good, mutually beneficial match.

"I'm hoping," said Spencer, "that we have our first legend-type superstar in the making for this franchise."

That would make everybody happy.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at leander.espn@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderESPN.