Ex-Liverpool youngster Villyan Bijev joins Portland Timbers 2

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The former US Under-20 international has returned to the States after failing to get his career off the ground in Europe.

After a frustrating four-and-a-half-year spell in Europe, former Liverpool youngster Villyan Bijev has been handed the chance to kick-start his career back in the USA.

The 23-year-old forward, who was born in Bulgaria before moving with his family to California at the age of five, has signed for Portland Timbers 2 ahead of their second USL season, and should he impress over the coming months, he could well earn a promotion to the club’s MLS side before long.

Formerly considered one of the USA’s top prospects, Bijev originally left the States to join Liverpool in August 2011 following a successful trial, but despite his Bulgarian passport, the former US Under-20 international was unable to secure a work permit.

He was subsequently loaned out to German side Fortuna Dusseldorf and Norway’s IK Start, respectively, over the next two seasons until securing the appropriate paperwork, but he failed to feature for the Premier League club's first-team before being cut loose at the end of the 2013-14 campaign.

The Fresno native has since had brief spells with Bulgarian top-flight sides Slavia Sofia and Cherno More, recording a total of 39 appearances and six goals, but he returned to the States this past winter after opting to cancel his contract with the latter team.

Speaking to the Fresno Bee in December about his time with Liverpool, Bijev said: “I was completely unprepared for the professional soccer world. Getting thrown into a professional culture was a complete shock.

“Here I was the big guy, the important player, the guy scoring goals and feeling good about myself. Then in an instant I’m in Germany and I’m the youngest guy on the team. I have to carry the balls, do the cones. It was a complete flip.

“It’s a hard lesson to learn that you’re dispensable – especially at 21 – but that’s the life you sign up for.”

Nevertheless, Bijev now has the chance to make his mark with T2 along with fellow new signings Michael Gallacher, Andre Lewis and Kendall McIntosh, who could all earn their debuts for the club in next week’s USL season opener at Swope Park Rangers.

Timbers head coach Caleb Porter is sure to be keeping close tabs on his development going forward, and given his once-lauded promise, it would not be a surprise to see him turning out for the MLS Cup holders at some stage in the future.

He would not be the only ex-Liverpool product from California plying his trade in MLS either, as former Reds teammate Marc Pelosi is also back stateside with hometown club San Jose Earthquakes after failing to make the grade at Anfield.

The 21-year-old midfielder whose progress on Merseyside was curtailed by a career-threatening leg break, is set to miss the first half of the season after undergoing a knee operation last month, but he did make a positive impression during last term's run-in following his summer arrival.

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