Portland Timbers forward Bright Dike’s successful season has received recognition beyond the confines of MLS. Dike scored six goals in 23 matches over his first two MLS seasons with the Timbers although 2012 will probably defined as his breakout after a coaching change saw him receive more opportunities.
He has been called down to Florida into camp with the Nigeria National Team by head coach Stephen Keshi to replace Chelsea’s Jon Obi Mikel. It is Dike’s first national team call-up at any level. Although born in Oklahoma, Bright’s parents are Nigerian.
Nigeria are in the Sunshine State for a friendly against Venezuela on Wednesday in Miami.
He will not be joined by Chelsea’s John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses who have withdrawn but the inclusion of Sharks FC’s Gomo Onduku will ensure Dike is not the only new boy.
Keshi seemed to know more about the player than the club he plays for if local media are to be believed:
“Timberwolves player, Bright Dike, who stars in the MLS for Timberwolves Fc has already been invited to play in his (Mikel’s) stead and we are sure that he will do well in the encounter, especially as he is based in the United States”, Keshi was quoted as saying.
Nigeria are one of 16 countries that have qualified for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament, which begins in January and will take place in South Africa. Nigeria will play Zambia, Burkino Faso and Ethiopia in Nelspruit and Rustemburg.
Dike will join the Nigeria National Team on Sunday in preparation for the friendly. The Super Eagles will play Venezuela at Marlins Park on Wednesday; kickoff is set for 5:05 p.m (Cascadia Time).
Dike, 25, finished his second MLS season as one of the Timbers’ leading scorers, recording five goals in 12 games over the final half of the 2012 campaign. Additionally, he tallied five goals in five appearances with the Timbers Reserves and recorded six goals and two assists during a two-month loan spell with the L.A. Blues of USL PRO last season.
Dike received his chance at club level when Portland’s Scottish head coach John Spencer was replaced by Gavin Wilkinson as interim manager. The new coach had been at the helm of the old USL club, for whom Dike had starred prior to the club’s elevation to Major League Soccer in 2011.
Dike replaced Spencer’s fellow Scot Kris Boyd as the first choice forward and impressed many with a string of bombastic performances at the top level of domestic football in the USA.