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Real Salt Lake

Former RSL staple Nat Borchers trading in boots for a microphone

First Published      Last Updated Feb 10 2017 12:21 pm

Portland, Ore. • Nat Borchers started spreading the word to his close friends around Major League Soccer in December. It wasn't as difficult of a decision as he once thought it would be. Just calling or texting those he shared the pitch with each year to let them know figured to be a challenge.

He was stepping away for good.

"I was at peace with it," he said.

A week after the 35-year-old former Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers center back went public with his retirement, ending a 14-year professional career that included two MLS Cup titles and a Best XI selection, Borchers sips on his tea at his favorite breakfast spot in downtown Portland, Mother's Bistro, and explains how he embraced that time had come for him.

"It was humbling, for sure, to go through that process," he said. "It was also exhilarating because I had the opportunity to really think about where I'd been in my career and what I wanted to accomplish in the future. It really helped me make up my mind."

That was the season-ending Achilles injury that he suffered last July. It felt like a simple twisted ankle at the time, but it ended up being the last time the bearded defender would be on the field. It came as no surprise to him, either. Borchers admits that he struggled physically to get his body ready for trainings and games in 2016. He had regular soreness in his Achilles region, too.

"For me to basically end my career on this injury wasn't surprising to me," he said.

An infection in his leg landed him back in the hospital six weeks after surgery was performed to repair the tear. A second surgery was required that essentially removed everything the first accomplished. The 386 career appearances in MLS caught up. The 11 straight years of at least 2,000 minutes played, too.

The center back with the flaming red beard, the man nicknamed "The White Rhino" during his days in Salt Lake City, broke the news on his social media platforms last Friday that the boots were being put on the shelf permanently.

But he's not venturing too far from the white lines.

Borchers will join the Timbers broadcast team as a sideline reporter this season. He'll serve in that role for as many as nine home matches, including the first March 18 against the Houston Dynamo in which he'll also be honored by the Timbers.

"I'll be trading in my shin guards and cleats for a pair of nice black shoes," he said. "That'll probably be an emotional moment."

Those who've spoke to Borchers shouldn't be that caught off guard to see he's entering the world of broadcasting. Admittedly, he's always been enamored by that side, he said. And he understands that it will be a sink-or-swim moment for him with a suit and microphone in hand.

"It's going to depend on how well I like it, how well they like me, and I think how well I can learn to do the job for them," he said. "It's obviously something where you can't really practice for it. Just show up and try your best."

Borchers will remain active in the Rose City as a community ambassador and is eager to start his own real estate business in Oregon. Asked to reflect on the most enjoyable and torturous matches of his storied career, Borchers spoke of the heartbreak of the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League final loss at home.

His most memorable match? Leg 2 of the 2013 Western Conference semifinal against L.A. Galaxy. RSL lost the first leg in Southern California 1-0 and returned to Rio Tinto Stadium under the gun. RSL rallied to topple the Galaxy on its way to the 2013 MLS Cup final.

"That was the epitome of what we were," he said "We were this team of players. There weren't any superstars. It was just us against the world, and we brought down this team of megastars. We did it in a classy way, we did it with grit and tenacity and mostly because we played together and we were a great team."

In the back corner of the restaurant, Borchers paused to reflect on what stands out on the last 14 years as a professional. From stops in Colorado to Norway to Salt Lake and eventually Portland. The triumphs, the titles and the tears.

"If I'm going to be judged by anything, I want to be judged by my teammates, and if they were to say I'm a good teammate, that would give me the most pride," he said. "I think it's the relationships that I've had in this business, with my teammates, front office, fans even the media. These are all people I wouldn't have had a relationship with without this game."

— Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani



 

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