With the team a goal down at home to their greatest rivals, Gavin Wilkinson must have at some point cast a glance across his bench in search of The One who could come on and change the game in Portland’s favour.

There he would’ve seen Kalif Alhassan, a mercurial winger on his way back to full fitness after a season that has defined stop-start; Eric Alexander, still the club’s leading assist provider, who had recently put in a great performance deputising for Diego Chara; Futty Danso, the big Gambian central defender who hasn’t kicked a ball for the first team since a 5-0 loss in Dallas; Mike Fucito, the ex-Sounders striker signed from Montreal; Danny Mwanga, a popular striker who had been traded to the club in exchange for Jorge Perlaza, who is now back in his native Colombia; and lastly, Kris Boyd.

Boyd was the marquee signing on the close season. A record breaking goal scorer, signed as a designated player to fill the gap left by Kenny Cooper, Boyd had joined when the club was still coached by John Spencer, and it’s not a stretch to speculate that Spencer was a big, if not the big, reason behind his decision to go to the Timbers.

He hit the ground running with a goal in his competitive debut against Philadelphia and would warm himself to the fans with his goal, and celebration, in the earlier match against the Sounders – a game the Timbers won.

But along the way there has been some rough sailing. A penalty miss against Cal FC saw Boyd cast as the villain to many, as well as some bad misses and a dip in confidence which led to his being dropped by Wilkinson once Spencer had been hustled out the door.


Since his two goals in the 5-3 loss to LA Galaxy – Wilkinson’s first match in charge – it’s been a little over 400 minutes since Boyd last found the back of the net. There isn’t a striker who hasn’t gone through similar spells in their career. More than most positions the role of goal scorer is one that is founded, to a large degree, on confidence and once that takes a hit, it can take a while to get back on track.

“Instead of usually being composed and putting it in the back of the net, I’ve snatched at the last couple of chances. The chances have been there, it’s been bad finishing. It’s been bad finishing on my part.”

Boyd’s own words sum it succinctly. It’s the quandary a manager faces with a misfiring striker – do you stick with him and hope that a ball bounces his way and it sparks him back into goalscoring life, or drop him for the good of the team? If missing a couple of chances can kick a players self-belief down a notch, you can imagine that being dropped entirely isn’t likely to have him believe he can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Considering the season, in a competitive sense, is as good as over it’s pretty telling that Wilkinson dropped Boyd rather than let the highest paid player at the club play through a sticky spell. The suspicion is that Boyd was a “Spencer signing” and has no long-term place at the club under Wilkinson and Porter.

The Dike Factor

Certainly Wilkinson would point to the impact that Boyd’s replacement has had on the team. Bright Dike came back from a loan where LA Blues, where he’d scored a few goals – confidence – and found the net twice in his first three starts. Typical poacher’s efforts, both goals were scored in the box, as the result of fine work by Sal Zizzo to set up the chances.

Since a winning goal against Colorado though, it’s been a bit of a slog for Dike. He’s now 200 minutes since the last time he scored, though it was only the width of the post that denied him a winner against Seattle, and I’m not alone in sharing some doubts about Dike’s ability to lead the line as a first choice striker.

The received wisdom is that Dike is a better fit for the system than Boyd. As that system has changed, moving away from the 4-4-2 that Spencer played, so Boyd has seen himself pushed further to the periphery of Wilkinson’s brave new world.

The System

I had flagged up Boyd’s lack of suitability in a lone front man role as a concern when the Timbers signed him – urging that a good partner be found to play alongside him. Alas, the Timbers didn’t seem to know what they’d signed, or how to get the best out of him, and so he’s never really found the consistency that he had when he was focal point at Kilmarnock and Rangers.

However, where Boyd has struggled as the lone striker before is when he’s been on a team that has played on the backfoot. For Scotland, the formation is very much a 4-5-1, with the emphasis on the “5”. The midfield will sit deep, and Scotland will look to the lone guy up top to run into corner and chase lost causes all day in the hope that something breaks for him. That’s why Vancouver goal-machine Kenny Miller gets the nod more often than not, and why Boyd is no longer a part of the international setup.

Similarly, when Rangers were successful in Europe, it was built on a defensive model. The football was, all but the most blue-nosed would admit, absolutely fucking turgid to watch when Rangers made it all the way to the UEFA Cup final. It was once more a system built on having a lone man up top foraging for scraps. That’s not Boyd’s strength.

The way the Timbers have been playing of late has relied on the lone man up top, but it is a much more attacking, fluid style than that of Scotland or Rangers.

I’d make the strong case that both Dike’s goals would get scored whether it was Boyd or Bright on the pitch at the time. Dike made a good run, and showed good movement and composure to get into place, but he didn’t do anything you wouldn’t expect a decent striker to do. What made the goals, rather, was the build-up play, and it was this that was so often lacking in the early part of the season.

The case is made by some fans that the team play better because Boyd isn’t there. His presence is too great a distraction for those around him. I don’t really buy this line of thinking, firstly as I don’t think that his fellow professional are so in awe of him, and secondly because I think any upheaval in tactics and style is inevitably going to bring about a period of reconstruction and uncertainty in play.

You’d expect after five or six games of a new formation and philosophy that you would start to see the results on the field, and so it’s been the case. As players got used to their new roles and responsibilities, so the play has improved somewhat (in an attacking sense, at least). It’s Boyd’s bad luck that just as the team start to click into gear, he’s found himself on the outside looking in.

Take nothing away from Bright Dike. He’s done well, and I’m sure he’s a handful to play against. But really, is he really that much different from Kris Boyd?

The stats would back up their attacking similarities. Both take about the same number of shots per match – one every 30 minutes or so – though Boyd gets more on frame, 45% – 27% of Dike’s admittedly very small sample size (not a euphemism). Even minutes per goal, 216-267 in Dike’s favour, doesn’t flag up any glaring differences. Dike may show a greater willingness to chase shadows into corners, but I’d balance that by making a case that Boyd’s link-up play is generally better.

The Future…?

The clock ticked past 70 minutes and Wilkinson took another look across the bench. Danny Mwanga was the man chosen to go on and change the game. Boyd remained seated. He would stay there until the final whistle blew on a 1-1 draw that leaves the Cascadia Cup to be settled.

At this point it would be easy to start second guessing every decision Wilkinson makes. Did he bring Mwanga on because he thought Danny’s pace and energy would be the key to unlocking the Sounders, or did Porter want Danny to get some game time? Has Porter made it clear that Boyd won’t be a Timber come First Kick 2013, and so that’s why the Scot can’t buy a start right now? Does Wilkinson simply not like or rate Boyd, and so he’s choosing to leave him out?

Boyd’s ability as a goalscorer isn’t in doubt, at least with me. Mike Donovan tweeted during the match, asking if there was any current Timbers player who could do what Montero did, turning and getting a looping shot off as he did? The answer was pretty easy – Kris Boyd. I’ve seen him do it live for Killie, and then again for Rangers. A confident Boyd, given the ball into his feet around the box is easily capable of this. For all his other faults, he’s still a danger in and around the box. His goal against the Sounders reserves was as typical a Boyd goal as you’re likely to see.

Should his time in Portland come to an end sooner rather than later, as I expect it will, he’d make a great add for a number of other MLS sides, though my suspicion is that his future would more likely lie back in the UK.

Ultimately a striker will be judged on the goals he scores. That’s why Emile Heskey is largely a joke figure among fans while still maintaining the respect of the players he’s played with, and coaches he’s played under.

With Kris Boyd, I worry that he’ll leave Portland with the fans never having seen the best of him. I still think that he has another couple of years at the top in him, and I’d hoped that they would be with the Timbers, but like Cooper and Perlaza before him, he may pay the price for not being quite prolific enough.

Does he miss good chances? Yes, of course. If your goal is to find a striker who never misses, good luck with that Quixotic quest of yours.

The Timbers will visit San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake over the next week. Diego Chara will miss out due to injury, meaning a possible return to the XI for Eric Alexander. With Kalif Alhassan back on the fringes of the first team, and given how these two players more than any others have been able to get on Boyd’s wavelength, the next two matches may be the best possible time to give Boyd one last chance to prove his doubters wrong.

“It’s the manager’s decision. There’s nothing I can do except the next time I go on the pitch, prove that I’m good enough to play.”



40 thoughts on “Wanted?

  1. I thing one thing that hurts Boyd more than the other strikers is the lack of a Timbers center mid who can distribute. Your graphic was telling; when was the last time we saw a Timbers MF slot a lovely through-ball like that? If Alhassan could do that regularly…well, if he could we’d be a different team, now, wouldn’t we?

    Boyd gets stick because he’s so gawdawful slow. But when you know that the ball isn’t coming through, what’s the point of darting about frantically?

    I’m far from being a terrific Boyd fan. But I agree that when the man is on, he’s deadly. He also has a tendency to be murder against the better sides. Given the effectiveness that Sigi’s boys showed against Dike last Saturday I was disappointed that Gavin (or whoever is in charge of the matchday substitutions) didn’t at least give someone else a look earlier in the match, and Boyd seems to be as good a possibility as any; certainly, given how he looked, as good as we got from Mwanga…

    1. Boyd’s not a chaser in the way that Perlaza was, and he’s not going to be beating many defenders for pace over 20 yards but as a penalty box striker, he doesn’t really have to. It’s not really about how quickly you move, it’s knowing when to go – and Boyd knows how to do that. What’s been lacking for long spells is having the guy on the wing or in the centre who knows when the pass the ball. As I’ve been watching the team over the past few games, I’ve been struck that we’ve been playing in a way that is much more suited to having Boyd there than we were under Spencer.

      I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference between Dike and Boyd in terms of style, but I do believe that Boyd has the greater ability and skill set. People’s opinions are coloured by the fact he’s going through a goal drought, as all strikers do, so the perception is that Boyd never scores but I certainly wouldn’t write him off yet. Whether Wilkinson and Porter (and Paulson) have is another matter.

  2. Another possibility (remote, I admit) is that Porter and /or Wilkinson have decided that Boyd is a keeper, and they want to see what Dike and Mwanga have to offer, since the season is blown anyway.

  3. My problem with Kris Boyd is that he doesn’t bother to play unless it is a set piece. When the ball is being played in midfield he is static instead of testing the defensive line, making them move, probing for a weakness. Much of the time he is simply standing in an off-sides position, so that if a team mate did make the wunderpass it wouldn’t matter. Look at the nuimber of off-sides calls against Portland in the first part of the season. They say there are “aggressive” and “lazy” types of off-sides. Boyd’s are lazy.

    His style of defense is about fighting it out with another defender trying to knock him down without being called for the foul. It is, in fact, the Scottish rugby style of football. And that does not fit in the Rose City. We are not an “elbow ’em in the ribs if you can” sort of place. We want our teams to outsmart and out-hustle, not to out-foul the opposition.

    I do recognize the difference between the bully foul and the aggressive foul as well. Chara is an aggressive fouler, he is all over, pushing players, looking for opportunities. Boyd is static, trying to beat his one opponent by brute force. When things are good for Chara, he steals the ball. When things go well for Boyd he leaves his man lying on the ground.

    Given the choice, I would prefer we be guilty of larceny, not assault.

    Then there is the question of his fitness. This is something of a matter of professionalism and personal pride, to become physically fit to play before the season starts and to remain that way throughout the season.

    I like all of what I have seen of Boyd off the field. He seems to be a cool guy and I have always fancied that, like New Zealand, Scotland fits with Portland. But the Timbers have not been so good a team that we can play half the game down a man. We need all hands on deck. We just cannot afford the Boyd we got.

    It might be that there is another Kris Boyd that is available,
    a player who will constantly test the back four scouting for a weakness to exploit and who punishes mistakes,
    a man who out-thinks and out-maneuvers his opponent (I don’t require Boyd to out-run anyone if he plays smart enough),
    a man who is usually on-side so that the defense must constantly react to his every movement,
    a striker who creates opportunities instead of requiring he be spoon-fed by his teammates,
    a team leader who leads by example in the obvious passion he brings to each minute on the pitch,
    a guy who puts himself in place to clean up missed shots by teammates instead of walking around the 18-yard box ball-watching.

    I would love to see this Kris Boyd. Throughout all the mess that has happened and that has become this season, throughout any dry spells when the ball doesn’t bounce right, and even after Spencer’s firing (like it or not, we cannot change it), it is not too late for me to become an avid Boyd supporter.

    But I need to see a team player who tries for 90 minutes, not a spectator with the best seat in the house.

    1. To be honest, I disagree with everything in your first paragraph. We’re clearly watching different games.

      I don’t think Boyd is “static”, by any stretch of the imagination. You might want him to spend more time running the width of the pitch, but he certainly doesn’t only “bother to play unless it is a set piece”. That’s just silly. I can think of five chances off the top of my head that were score,d or came about, because he was alive and moving around the box, and if I sat down and gave it more than twenty seconds thought, I’m sure I could come up with another five without having to consult match reports or old notes for more.

      It’s true Boyd is the offside leader. It’s also true that he was the one leading the line under Spencer, under whom the team racked up a staggering level of offside decisions that go way beyond “that guy is always standing in an off-sides position” and tell us more about a team that lacked composure or class in delivering the final ball. Again, I’m 100% certain I could go through everyone of Boyd’s offside calls and pick out the vast majority of them being down to a breakdown in timing. It’s improving – down from an average of 3 a game to a little over 2 – and that’s down to a system that is built on possession and picking the pass rather than “going direct”.

      I don’t think Boyd is a dirty player. If anything, I’ve wanted to see him push back a little more. Again, here I don’t see a great deal of difference in style between Boyd and Dike.

      “When things go well for Boyd he leaves his man lying on the ground.” So Boyd is a “bully” fouler as you call it, right? And Chara is “aggressive”? Aside from the fact I don’t understand the distinction in the terms you’re making up to suit your argument, I don’t see the problem with your quote. Chara’s job is to win the ball back, Boyd’s is to not allow the defender to come through him and take the ball away. So yes, “when things are good for Chara, he steals the ball”, absolutely, and yes, it’d be fantastic if Boyd’s strength and guile is enough to knock the defender over, or even just buy him the half-yard of space he needs to get turned and get his sights on goal. So here we… agree?

      I don’t think Boyd “assaults” anyone. He plays tough, as does Dike, and just about anyone who has faced a career of being matched up against 6’4 bruisers whose goal in life is to do whatever it takes to stop you doing your job.

      The fitness “issue” is a non-event. Kris Boyd is not unfit. That twitter meme got old real fast.

      1. Perhaps we are looking at different games. It is probably more likely that your knowledge of the game is superior to mine. I will defer to you on these points.

        What I was trying to say was that Boyd is not moving around on the field. This is not a subjective position, one can see him standing when others are walking and walking when others are trotting. Perhaps we should start by asking “when you see Boyd play, do you see someone who is working for the ball, breaking suddenly to get free, probing the back line for weaknesses to exploit?”

        If you say “no, he is running like everyone else, you are making it all up” then we are looking at different games. Out of my considerable respect for you, I will try hard to look with new eyes at the next chance, or even to watch again some of the season’s games. (Some I could not bear to watch again, however. . . don’t make me do that!)

        If you instead say “yes, he does not run as much as others” then we go to different issues. First off, I am not asking him to run aimlessly from side to side. Let’s dismiss that straw man. I do, however, expect a striker to be moving off the ball, and when we are in possession, to be onside. Otherwise any pass coming to him from anywhere on the field is wasted. You cannot scramble to get onside after the ball has been served to you.

        I am willing to give Kris the benefit of the doubt by conceding that it is his style of play rather than his will to compete that is responsible. I can see, in bygone eras, in Scotland among other places, what I have heard described as “rugby style”. Perhaps the problem with the huge difference in our views is our expectations. I do not think a “rugby style” striker is going to make it any more in the MLS (or EPL). Fouls are called much too closely these years.

        Further, even if a “hold your ground and beat your man” approach is likely to succeed in the MLS, I don’t see it happening at Portland. It doesn’t fit the town and certainly does not fit the rest of the team.

        I do not believe Boyd is a “dirty” player. I do think our difference lies buried within your quote “. . . it’s be fantastic if Boyd’s strength and guild is enough to knock the defender over, or even just buy him the half-yard of space he needs to get turned and get his sights on goal.”

        I see these as two separate things entirely. I am delighted with a striker who outwits his opponent to turn him and allow a clear sight on goal. But this is not what I see much of the time from Boyd. Instead I see him attempting to knock the defender over to get a clear shot, maybe even to the point where knocking the defender over becomes the goal.

        Finally I would suggest that the presence or absence of a twitter meme probably will not count as empirical evidence as to the truth of an assertion.

        I do respect your posts even enough to cough up some cash in support (a hopefully helpful plug not auto-engineered) but my eyes tell me he he is walking and standing while 1-5 yards offsides. If that is all right under some aspect of strategy I do not understand, please teach me. I have already learned much here. If my eyes deceive me, I need some stronger evidence than the heat map of a single game.

        I don’t want Kris Boyd gone. I want him on the field every game scoring goals. I just don’t see how that is possible even if perfect balls were served to his feet if he is already offsides. And the only way to beat offsides traps is to be dynamic, to move.

        Do you see my honest difficulty?

      2. “I do, however, expect a striker to be moving off the ball, and when we are in possession, to be onside” – but he is, or else he wouldn’t have scored against LA (or had a goal wrongly disallowed in the same match) or against Seattle, or been in place to pick up the pieces against Chivas (which he missed, or the keeper made a good save, depending on your perspective). That’s just a couple that come right to mind, they’re far from the only examples. Maybe he doesn’t do it enough for your liking, but he wouldn’t have carved out a career of over a decade, with international caps and playing at the highest level in Europe, if he spent his time standing around, or not putting in the work required.

        He’s no Kenny Miller, that’s for sure. That’s why Kenny would invariably get the place ahead of him when more movement was required up top. You want a guy who will deliver everything you desire from Boyd in terms of his movement, and not being a “bully”, then Miller’s your man.

        As for his being offside, I’d give the benefit of the doubt to the guy whose been playing professional football for as long as Boyd has. It’s about reading the game. I don’t know if you play football yourself, but if you do then you’d know that the game looks a lot different when it’s going on around you. That chance that seems so obvious from the stands might not be “on” on the ground for a variety of reasons – the player not having his head up, another player being in his sightline, etc.

        Not to compare Boyd to a true footballing genius like Zidane, but Zidane was a master of reading the game. He’d spend a lot of time walking, lightly jogging, standing still during a match because he could read the flow of the game and he knew when to get on his toes, and when to play using his head rather than exerting himself without good reason. There’s a good movie that features multiple cameras on Zidane for an entire match, and it’s well worth seeking out.

        There are some guys whose game is built of hustle. Miller is an example of this, and I see a bit of it in Fucito and Richards. They’ll go out and run themselves ragged, and that can be a valuable asset sometimes. They’ll close down defenders, chase long balls down and look to find spaces between the lines to get through and on goal. But then there are guys whose game is built of an economy of effort. Boyd isn’t going to chase down a hopeful ball because he knows he’s not going to get it, so why waste the energy? He won’t sprint twenty yards to close down a centre back because, really, what’s he going to do to hurt the team 30 yards from his own goal? He’s not going to hustle back on onside because he can read the ball isn’t coming his way, and if it did it would be little more than a hit-and-hope, and by the time the ball does work into a place where he can be active, he’ll be onside. No rush.

        It’s fine if people simply don’t like the aesthetics of that. When I say “economy of effort”, others will say “laziness”, or see someone that isn’t trying or doesn’t care. We’re not seeing anything different, we’re just not watching it through the same lens.

        “maybe even to the point where knocking the defender over becomes the goal” – that’s just silly. I won’t even bother with that. If you think that’s even a possibility then we really are watching a different game. I don’t see “knock the defender over, or even just buy him the half-yard of space” as two different things at all, just different shades on a spectrum. Boyd’s simply giving back what he gets and standing his ground, and looking to gain an advantage over his opponent. That is the very essence of the game.

      3. Your comments below help me understand a little better your position. It does seem you are making a caricature of mine. Perhaps justly. . .

        When I talk about standing offside, I mean when Portland has the ball and Boyd is standing 2-5 yards offside, yelling for the ball. I am thinking of the first Colorado away game, for example. Or the later Dallas game home.

        I have not said, and have not implied, that Boyd has not scored goals or has not done some excellent things at times. That would be a silly statement and I hope you don’t really believe I am saying this. Anecdotal examples of his stellar play just highlights for me the real problem: His *apparent* lack of will to play for 90 minutes.

        He is capable of wonderful things. He has done some wonderful things. I hope he will be doing wonderful things here for years.

        But when he does magic one game, or part of the game, then appears to be ball-watching the rest of the game, or when he seems disinterested in defense, it bothers me. There are teams that have been built around one player. It never works. Especially in a team that does not have the absolute best talent in the league, we cannot afford a team member who isn’t trying.

        I don’t know if this is because of interpersonal conflicts with staff or other players, or distractions due to his new marital status, or disgust over how he was treated in Turkey, or “looking beyond playing” in his own career, or “I am really better than the MLS and thus they should not expect me to show up at my full potential” or perhaps even because there are no other players on the Timbers capable of playing the game at a high enough level to provide the service he needs to score. I don’t know why, and it bothers me a lot.

        I understand playing smart. I am quick to defer to those who know the beautiful game better than I do. I do not want a team filled with frenetic aimless running about. I hope I am not stupid.

        Perhaps you are looking at Boyd’s best times on the field and I am looking at his worst. In that case it will be a glass half-filled situation and we can both hope the glass gets filled to the brim.

        Perhaps you are talking potential and I am speaking of consistency.

        The part I am having difficulty understanding is how a modern football team can afford a stand-in-the-box striker, one who does not work to make things happen, who does not test the defense, and who does not hustle to try and finish the failed attempts by team mates, as in the Colorado game where he walked to the box and was therefore late to pick up the rebound for the third Timbers attempt to score.

        Can you refer me to players and teams currently playing in the MLS, EPL or the German or Spanish A leagues who plays in this fashion? Who does not move on defense? Who does not scramble to pick up rebounds or keeper’s errors? Who does not spend almost all of the time onside?

        That might help.

        One footnote: I liked what I saw of Boyd’s play in the San Jose game, before his unfortunate injury. If this were the Boyd I saw all season we would not need this conversation. I hope Boyd is back and prospers under Porter.

      1. Partly. I believe the thing that changed for Kenny Cooper was coaching. In New York I see a player who is no longer afraid to use his size and athleticism to stand with the ball as the attack builds around him. I also see a guy who will now sometimes take it right down the middle, mano-a-mano. It took a wise and experienced coach to persuade Kenny Cooper he could advance the ball without going to where the opposing players are not.

      2. Cooper’s lack of confidence in his size and athleticism probably had more to do with him coming off a serious ankle injury than anything else. Now that he’s healthy and gets above average service in the box helps his confidence a bit…

    2. Sorry, Kevin, but I’m going to agree with Roy on the majority of his complaints. (I’m sure you’re absolutely devastated… wink, wink.) I’m not sure about the ‘bully’ thing, but on most of the rest of the post, I’m with Roy.

      I don’t want a striker who stands around, and that’s the #1 thing I associate with Kris Boyd. Standing around. If I have to choose between two very similar strikers who are going to produce more or less the same number of goals, I’ll take the guy who runs around more. Maybe it distracts the defense, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it leads to scoring chances, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, it’s what I want to see. I paid to get into the stadium, I want to look down on the field and see that my team is actually breaking a sweat. Maybe it’s an issue of esthetics, I don’t know. But I know that watching Kris Boyd always annoyed the hell out of me, and watching Bright Dike doesn’t. Bright looks like he’s trying.

      1. Yup. Devasted.

        Hey, everyone has their own opinion. I don’t see Boyd “standing around” any more than a number of top class strikers, but I get that for some it’s the perception of “effort” that matters. If it wasn’t for that, guys like Kenny Miller would have seen their career at the top level finish long before a comfortable semi-retirement in British Columbia. It’s a very British notion – where a manager can reach the top with inspiring instructions like “run about a bit” – and I guess it’s something American fans expect of their sportsmen too.

        I think, with Boyd as it was with Cooper and Perlaza before him, it’s at the stage now where people are going to see what they want, or expect, to see.

        But hey, I’m the guy who wrote a big post about my support of Jorge Perlaza, at a time when 99% of things I read about him where negative. It took me a while to figure out why folk were getting on his case cos I thought he was playing well, and was integral to what little we were doing right in attack, and then I realised it was his lack of goals that was the big bug bear for most. That hadn’t even been a consideration for me – as long as a player is doing a good job, I wouldn’t mind a striker who never scored if his work was enabling others to do so. That probably tells you a bit about my own particular philosophy when it comes to football. Fair to say we probably come from different philosophical schools! Nothing wrong with that.

      2. Just an addendum, and not necessarily addressing you, but it got me thinking.

        It’s kinda apposite to be talking about this as an election campaign ramps up. Some folks are died in the wool, staunch Republicans or Democrats. It wouldn’t matter what the other side does or says, they have their opinion of them and, damnit they will make theirs actions and words fit it.

        This kind of entrenched opinionism (seemingly spellcheck doesn’t think that’s a word, which is absolutely crombunctious) bleeds across into much more trivial/important (delete depending on your level of political cynicism) spheres such as movie fandom. Death threats for poor Dark Knight Rises reviews, anyone.

        It’s little surprise that sports stir up similar feelings among some. Whether its defending your team, or attacking your rivals, or your most/least favourite players, the concept is the same: take a position, and start digging.

    3. I totally disagree with your first paragraph as well. You really need to stop drinking the Timbers Army Koolaid and watch the matches. Just shut all the fan chatter out around you. Boyd is a good player and should be our #1.

  4. Excellent writeup! I always enjoy reading your analysis.

    I really think Boyd should have some time Wed. Sunday he showed that he’s willing to move around and help make some plays..he was brilliant.

    and I’ve loved KAH from the first game he played at Merlo, not only does he have ball control skills he was placing crosses right to our striker (dike) just inside the box, including one particular beautiful bending cross. Sure sometimes he seems inconsistent with a sense of “where’s KAH?” But he should be filling chara’s slot when chara is out.

    True it was only reserves they were playing against, but our offense was deadly that first half. Certainly good enough to put them with our starters and see if it clicks.

    1. The longer Boyd has been out of the team, the greater the misconception has grown that he doesn’t move. A simple glance at the heatmaps above will tell you he moves around plenty. He doesn’t have the explosive pace that makes it so noticeable, and he won’t chase a lost cause in the way that Kenny Miller will, so folk peg him as “lazy” or “unfit”. He maybe not as mobile as a Perlaza or Fucito, but he’s no less so than Dike.

      1. And yet in the defense of the perception of him being lazy, unless people have access to all the heat maps side by side they’re going to remember a truly abysmal showing like his effort (?) against FC Dallas on 8/5. Then they remember he hasn’t scored a goal in a while (whether it’s his fault or not), and that sort of thing reinforces a narrative; one that was gathering steam before he even joined Portland. Combine that with the amount of money he makes and its easy to see where the resentment comes from.

      2. He had a bad game that night, for sure. Is there a player on the squad who hasn’t? Even Chara has had an off-night or two along the way. It happens. He got subbed off, and rightly so.

        400 minutes isn’t really that long. It’s less than 5 full games, out of a 34 game regular season. Better players have gone longer without scoring. The reason I even mentioned the 200 minutes that Dike had gone was not to suggest that Dike was on a “goal drought”, but just to highlight that it doesn’t seem that long since he scored, yet those minutes can rack up, quick.

        If people want to fit selective events into a “narrative” – a notion I have a problem with, to be honest, but that’s another subject for another time – they’ve already bought into, nothing anyone says, or likely nothing Boyd does, is likely to change that. For some, Boyd will never justify the money other people decided to pay him, just as Ricketts will never be Perkins or Jewsbury will never be real captain material.

      3. Don’t get too hung up on the word narrative. That’s just me talking about this as though we’re looking at the ‘story of Kris Boyd’. Let’s call it reputation instead. You make a strong case that Boyd’s reputation as being lazy is undeserved. As an only recent long-distant fan of the Timbers, my first exposure to him was from the stands at that FC Dallas match I mentioned. Plenty of the fans I was sitting next to were grumbling about him and how disappointed they are in him and I, at first, fell into the camp of not liking his lack of effort in that match. But then I saw that wonderful touch in the Toronto match (if memory serves) that was part of leading up to a goal and my opinion of him softened a bit. You’re defense here has me agreeing with you more that perhaps he should be given more of a chance before he’s truly cast aside.

        As a numbers guy, you’re puzzled by the reputation. Looking at it through the lens of a casual fan who sees a guy who earns big money (20x more than Bright Dike, whose heat map you stacked up against Kris Boyd’s for this article) and is supposed to have been a big shot in the SPL but can’t seem to find that magic in Portland, it’s pretty easy to see why they’d put a big share of the blame for his lack of success on Kris Boyd himself. What is a fan entitled to, if anything, from such a big investment? Is there an opportunity lost because of so much salary tied up in a guy who can only muster the same results as a guy making a fraction of his salary? I don’t know, but it’s easy to see why so many people blame Kris Boyd and I have a certain amount of sympathy still for that viewpoint.

        Personally, I’d like to see him 2 more times. Is that an unfairly short window to pass judgment on the guy? Then I guess I’m unfair. Perhaps it’ll be best for him at that point that he does get traded and go onto a chance for better success somewhere else that he fits better. I do like his quote about proving himself good enough to play. That’s what I want to see.

      4. Soccer in the States still shares a lot of DNA with football in the uk, so an obsession with work rate and effort and running isn’t a surprise. It’s just not something I personally put great importance in. When we signed Boyd I made the case that he’s a penalty box striker, and that’s what I’ve seen from him. If anything, he does a bit more running here than I’ve seen from him over this side of the pond. But he’s not going to change who he is now and if people don’t like what they’ve seen so far in terms of running about, they never will.

        When you play as Scotland do, you need a “runner” up top, in part to keep the opposing defence honest and also to try and stop them squeezing up. You need that guy to create space between defence and midfield. That’s why, if you’d told ne weeks ago that the timbers were going to one man up front, I’d have said it wouldn’t work with Boyd. There’s no sense in firing a ball 50 yards up the field for him to chase down, cos he only really lives in or round the penalty box, not in the corners.

        But when you see how the Timbers play, it’s not about that. It’s about possession and building out from the back, with Songo’o and Zizzo pushing high, and Chara and Nagbe coming from deep. It’s much more suited to Boyd than I’d have imagined. I think Boyd’s a better link player, and with a bit more attacking flair and purpose in the side going forward, you could actually start to see the best of Boyd – attacking the ball in the box.

        But don’t ever expect him to cover every blade out there. That’s a fools errand. I don’t think he’s nearly as lazy as the hyperbole of some would suggest, but he’s going to look to work that central channel.

      5. Also people NEVER give him credit for the play making he’s done. If you look at goals over the season, his second to last touch has been pretty big, putting the well timed ball in a pocket or making a deadly difficult one touch pass.

        I wish I had access to all of the Timbers games so I could look at all the goals of the season, I think it would probably show Boyd in a brighter light.

      6. Yeah, I think his link play is massively underrated.

        I think if there is a valid criticism of Boyd, it’s that he only really comes to life in the final 30-40 yards and he needs to ball to feet or chest, not twenty yards over there.

  5. At the start of the season I was excited to hear Dike had drop somewhere near 20lbs and was in great shape. Like most “American” sport fans, seeing a guy chase everyone ball down (hopeless or not) and leaving everything you leave everything on the pitch is great. However, the more I learn about this wonderful game it’s evident that “smart hustling” is far more important than none stop hustling and understanding when to use your abilities and when not too. When given the opportunity last season Dike would chase a long ball down for 30/40 yards, to then boot his first touch an additional 20 years. Unfortunately his “foot skills” and “touch” have not improved and this is where I’m really missing Boyd in the box. I think the only reason Dike is still playing forward is that he was in the right place at the right time. The team is understanding and playing well in the the new system and Dike was there to “fill” the gap. If Boyd can regain his confidence and we continue to improve in our “possession with purpose” mind set watch out MLS!

    Side note(s)…anyone else believe
    1) Wallace earned a starting spot &
    2) Jewsbury should be killing 95% of our set pieces..

    1. I agree. Dike was in the right place, right time to slot in to a team that was just beginning to mesh after a period of adjustment and turmoil. That probably reads a bit harsh of Bright. I think he’s done well with the chance he’s been given, but I don’t think he’s come in and done anything that I wouldn’t have expected from Boyd or Mwanga had they been given the nod over the past few games.

      As much as I doubt that Boyd will be a Timber next year, I’m every bit as sceptical that Dike leads the line next year either. He’ll fit in for now, and together with Mwanga will help reinforce the face-saving “narrative” that Boyd simply doesn’t fit in, and we have adequate guys to do the job now which will allow us to “optimize our budget numbers” in 2013. It’s totally not because we signed a guy on a ton of cash without figuring out what kind of player he was and how to get the best out of him first. This is an upgrade! *roll eyes*

      I thought Wallace put in a great shift. I’d give him a run of games to earn his 2013 spot. You really can’t tell anything about a player by giving him a game here or there. Just cos someone comes in and plays a blinder, doesn’t make him a great player who should be starting every match. Equally, if he comes in and has a stinker, it doesn’t mean he should be banished and never seen again. You need a run of matches to get a true reflection of a player and we’re in the unique situation where we have little to play for in terms of what’s above us, and there’s no threat of relegation below us. It’s as “no-lose” you can get in football. Give him a few matches to sink or swim. Ditto with Eric Alexander. If ever there was a time to shake things up and see what some of the fringe guys can bring, it’s now. We won’t learn anything now by sticking with the same XI (plus or minus one or two here and there) till the end of the season.

  6. This is a totally different subject, Kevin, but what did you think of our back four’s performance versus Seattle? Particularly Horst. I didn’t see too many brain farts, but your football eyes are a lot sharper than mine.

    1. Nothing stood out, but I didn’t rewatch it due to lack of time. I wasn’t impressed at all by the Sounders attack (Montero’s one special moment aside) but whether that was due to good def, poor attack, or a bit of both, I can’t say. As I tend to watch it the 1st time with my Timbers Fan hat on, I’d tend towards good defence.

  7. Boyd can be magic. He can turn quarter chances into goals, as the wrongly disallowed shot against LA shows. I’ve never seen Dike create magic, just work hard and finish chances he is supposed to finish.

    I’d also agree with Kevin that Roy’s assessment of Boyd does not jive at all with what I have seen.

  8. Boyd would be a huge loss for us, if we just let him go without giving him a chance in the “new” system. As “Skenjis” said, Boyd can create magic out of quarter chance…just go to YouTube and watch the videos of Boyd’s goals over in Europe. He can score with nary a peek at the goal, one hopping a shot off of a cross while on the move across the goal, back heading a cross (back across the goal against the run of play), even a quick reaction bicycle kick in the 6 yard box.

    Boyd also has superb touch on both his shots and passes, something Dike ever so painfully obviously does not, nor ever will have. Boyd rarely if ever blasts his shot, rather, he is all about proper pace, proper angle, proper timing. He is a shootist…a clever sniper of a spider, sitting in his web…the box…waiting for that fly…the scoring opportunity…to fly in.

    Boyd is a very smart player…knows when, and where to run, and doesn’t waste his energy on plays that he knows will not really set up a good scoring chance. By contrast…Dike runs around like a maniac, but gasses himself out in about 50 or 60 minutes…or less…and then, with his fire out, his lack of footskills are really painfully obvious with no raw athleticism to hide them in. Then, once tired, Dike is also very very easy to defend, and very easy to steal the ball from, which is a big help to the defense in killing out possession.

    Boyd is supposed to score goals…and I want him to save his energy, and all his “tricks”, for those few moments in each game, when a good scoring play finally presents itself. If any of you are old enough, some of you may remember Giorgio Chanaglia in the NASL. Boyd plays a lot like Giorgio, and Giorgio was quite a weapon, even a bit past his prime. People like Boyd and Chanaglia are very quietly dangerous players, and I guarantee you that our MLS opponents are far more worried when Boyd is on the prowl than Dike. Dike is the 8 second ride in the rodeo, Boyd is the cobra in the basket….

  9. Some say “standing around”, I say “leading the line”, it’s mostly just bad service. He wasn’t faultless but he’s a player who plays at the front and he was supposed to be at the front; we never played a 4-6-0. Boyd spent a depressing amount of time waiting for long, poor, passes, and wrestling with defenders *because* he, and they, were waiting for long, poor passes. He’s not Heskey, which is an apt comparison, because Heskey is a modern British target man, who jelled perfectly with a midfield that pushed up quickly and someone smart just in front of him or fast just beside him: lay it off or look for a through ball. If there had been either a) better midfield build-up or b) some other man-tank (like, historical reference, John Toshack) to play with their back to goal, get a long pass, and hold it for a moment, we’d have seen a different Boyd. It’s a shame that he won’t get a chance to show what he can do. With the narrowest pitch I’ve ever seen and poor organization out of defense, I’m surprised no one thought to get a big inside forward to free up Boyd or feed out to the wings.

  10. Well, he started against San Jose and came off with a groin pull within the first fifteen minutes.

    Damn shame. Hope he gets more looks this season. Why not?

  11. Kevin,

    Good write-up as always, but why no mention of the attitude stuff? You do a good job of covering the “on field” analysis of Boyd this season, but from everything everyone in the know says, the reason he’s on the fringes is only partly due to the on field production, but primarily to do with him not giving a rip about the club/city and making it pretty clear he’s counting down the hours until the season is over and he can leave.

    1. To be honest, I haven’t heard anything like that so I can’t comment on it. He’s a local lad, or at least came through my local club here in Scotland, and all I hear about him from guys I know who came through the system with him is that he’s a “daft boy”, but a top guy and a hard worker (albeit in his younger days he’d also party hard…). Maybe the following decade or so has knocked that out of him, but I can’t say I’ve heard anything to suggest he doesn’t care

      1. I think people read his body language during a game and mistake his playing possum for lack of fitness and caring. It’s how he gets defenses to relax and lose him. I do feel that he could be in better shape than he is which would allow him to cause more turnovers by MLS defenders. Ball control is one of the weeknesses of MLS defenders and should be exploited by strikers. It’s not one of his strengths but I think it could be on the MLS level. I do think he could fit in nicely to Porters style. I would trade him for a top notch center mid that could help us with possession and effect the game more. Short of that I would say keep him.

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