Timbers Roster – Key Retentions and Key Departures
by Chris Hardwicke
At the top of the list is the obvious departure. Kris Boyd was quickly shown the door in the birth pangs of the Porter era. Despite being the team’s leading scorer, it became obvious early that the Scottish striker was not going to fit into the new coach’s speedy, possession based style of play.
At the time of writing, Merritt Paulson seemingly has had to open his pocketbook in order to let the Scotsman go, but it may end up being a wise investment. With the addition of Ryan Johnson, the return of Jose Valencia, plus the proven rhino-style play of Bright Dike, the loss of Boyd’s poacher-style play will not be missed.
With a potentially amazing midfield, any of the forwards on the roster could be potential targets from a midfield that has the very real potential to thwart opposing defenders.
Franck Songo’o is another key loss, and it’s unclear as to why. With the addition of a milieu of new players at midfield, one could argue that Songo’o was simply the odd man out in Porters new system. One could also make the point that he had a contract that was not attractive to the Front Office.
Did Songo’o simply not fit into the system of a new head coach? Or was he not willing to move backwards on his contract, that would have paid him a good deal more in 2013. We will likely never know the answer, but it looks like the hole at midfield has already been plugged.
Key departures on the back line are Kosuke Kimura and Steven Smith.
Portland is still in the process of finalizing exactly how the back line will look, but the loss of these defenders does not look to be a serious problem.
Though both players exhibited skill and moments of brilliance (especially moving forward) they were consistently beaten on their corners, all too often forcing another player to deal with the lost mark. In worst case scenarios, they led to goals that never should have been allowed.
Also absent from the roster this year will be fan favorite Eric Brunner. With all of his injuries in 2012, it may be safe to assume that Porter and Wilkinson simply parted ways with Brunner simply to alleviate risk and start fresh. This could prove to be a smart move, especially if the potential Silvestre experiment becomes reality and works.
Mike Fucito is also a casualty of the new regime. Though Portland is loaded with forwards for 2013. It seems like his departure is simply business and Portland will be no worse for the wear when the season starts.
Let’s start up top. Bright Dike is going to be a big target for the retooled midfield. His bulldozer style combined with decent speed and ability could mean goals in the double digits for the big forward.
It’s tough to say in pre-season, but Dike looks to be the guy when it comes to an ideal target man.
Danny Mwanga also returns for 2013, and while he could be a potent offensive threat, he showed a lot of promise as a go between between midfield and a primary striker. It will be interesting to see if Porter will incorporate this style of play into his system, but if he does, it could bear a lot of fruit.
And then there is the Valencia equation. Out for the entire 2012 season, the Colombian is going to be a big question mark. Looking at his style of play in the past, on paper, he’s a good match for the system that Porter is installing at Jeld-Wen. His main competition is likely Will Johnson.
At midfield, a lot of players stayed on. Notably Darlington Nagbe. Back under the tutelage of his college coach, Nagbe just might settle in and become the superstar MLS fans have expected him to become. He’s primed for Porter’s quick, pass heavy style. There is no reason why 2013 shouldn’t be Nagbe’s breakout season.
Fan favorite Diego Chara has remained for 2013, and this is huge. Arguably, no player took more hits and absorbed more punishment in 2012 than Chara.
Despite using the Columbian as a punching bag, he showed skill and dedication at midfield, especially in a defensive role. No other midfielder on the current roster looks like he has the credentials to pass up Chara as the midfield anchor.
Jack Jewsbury has been retained as well, most likely for his value as a veteran. At 31, it’s nearly to impossible to argue that he has any more that a few good years left in him before the young guys simply out gas him. Technically sound and a great leader, his value is in providing leadership to the younger players and new roster members. On the field, he is a great set piece player and has the stamina to play a full 90 minutes. But for how long?
Porter has also chosen to retain Kalif Alhassan, likely because of his sparks of brilliance and feats of amazing footwork that often cause marks to fall out of their boots. Despite injury and inconsistency, Porter obviously sees value in Alhassan who also has an opportunity to thrive and have a career season in 2013.
Sal Zizzo and Eric Alexander have both remained on the squad as well, and it’s unclear how they will fit into the roster. Both players are talented and have the ability to rise to the next level. Zizzo especially showed flashes of that, most notably during the end of the season. Alexander may function as the better option as an attacking mid working with new Timbers such as Diego Valeri. They will both make their mark in 2013, but don’t count them in as constant starters.
Moving to the defense, the Timbers have retained notable players David Horst and Honyer Mosquera. Though he committed more than one error in 2012, Horst has earned a spot on the new roster. He arguably fought harder and with more passion than any defender on the team.
Under new management, Horst has the opportunity to improve his skills on defense and ultimately has the potential to become one of the leagues best defenders. Mosquera is a question mark. Its tough to determine if he will be a regular starter what with all the changes that have been made on the back line. The same can be said for Futty Danso.
Portland is poised to make a huge leap from last year’s season spent orbiting the basement. The addition of a hungry, young, confident coach and a litany of new talent on the pitch could spell a break out year in the Rose City.
There are always questions though. Rodney Wallace was retained. Where does he fit in? Is Donovan Ricketts completely healed from last year? Where will relative unknowns like Brent Richards, Sebastian Rincon, or Ryan Kawulok find space in the new order.
2013 will be a year of question marks, gambles, and investments. Despite all the uncertainties the Beautiful Game affords, and on so many levels, its hard to argue that Portland has any way to go but up, and quickly.