The Questionable Seven

With only 180 minutes left of the 2012 season, the thoughts of Portland Timbers fans are already turning to 2013. A huge job awaits Caleb Porter when he flies west in December as the squad needs some urgent surgery if it’s to be in any shape to challenge for a playoff place next year.

Players like Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara and Hanyer Mosquera can feel pretty secure in their positions within the team, while guys like Lovel Palmer and Mike Fucito may be starting to pack up their belongings in an old canvas sack as I type. For a large majority of the roster, though, this offseason will be one of great uncertainty.

Porter may decide that continuity is important to the team, and look to retain a large core of the squad, with a few additions and alterations here and there, but I suspect, in an ideal world, Porter would much to prefer to rip it up and start again, largely from scratch. There are precious few guys in the current roster who you would say fit into the mould of guys who can play the way Porter wants his teams to play, with quick, accurate passes and incisive movement.

With that in mind, I’ll take a quick look at seven of the guys I’d put into that “questionable” bracket and try and guess whether they’ll be back in Timbers green in 2013.

[learn_more caption=”Kalif Alhassan”]
2012 Record: 15 Appearances (10 Starts), 2 Assists, 1 Goal

Kalif Alhassan joined the Timbers in the twilight of their USL days with a view to progressing into MLS. Had a big role to play in 2011 with 6 assists in 27 starts, and on his day he is capable of creating a bit of magic out of nothing. 2012 has been something of a washout for the Ghanaian however, as he’s missed much of it through a series of niggling injuries.

Reasons to keep: He’s still young and can, hopefully, put the injuries behind him. With some disciplined coaching, could reign in his rather anarchic approach to tactical instruction and become a key component in Porter’s 4-3-3.

Reasons to cut: Injuries have curtailed his development at a crucial time, and when he does play he is inconsistent and tactically naive. Perhaps a little too similar to, but lacking the finesse of, Franck Songo’o.

Verdict: He doesn’t command a great wage, and is still pretty young, so he’ll be back. Next year will be the biggest of his Timbers career. Make or break time.

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[learn_more caption=”Jack Jewsbury”]
2012 Record: 31 Appearances (30 Starts), 4 Assists, 2 Goals

Captain Jack came into 2012 as an MLS All-Star following a tremendous debut year for Portland. However, he has rarely even threatened to live up to the standards of that first season with some fans questioning his seemingly unshakable place in the first XI. He’s far away the player with most on-field time for Portland in MLS with almost 800 more minutes than Chara, the club’s #2.

Reasons to keep: He’s clearly popular with the squad and respected by the coaching staff. His position as club captain has rarely been in doubt, and he has shown versatility in filling in at right back during an injury crisis.

Reasons to cut: Lacks the tenacity and awareness to be a regular defensive midfielder, as well as the craft and creativity to play further forward. Always a sense that wherever he plays, he’s the second best option there. Turns 32 next year, so is unlikely to improve.

Verdict: He’ll be back but whether he’ll be the first name on the team sheet any more is up for debate, though, considering he left Kansas City when she spent much of the back-end of 2010 on the bench, will he accept a squad role next year?

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[learn_more caption=”Kris Boyd”]
2012 Record: 26 Appearances (22 Starts), 1 Assist, 7 Goals

Kris Boyd set records for goalscoring in the Scottish Premier League, but after an undistinguished spell in England, and a short stint in Turkey, he came to Portland with expectations riding high that he could recapture his old form and fire the Timbers towards the playoffs. Like his predecessor, Kenny Cooper, he found it hard to adjust to the Timbers style and, despite leading the club in goals scored, he has failed to live up to his hefty price tag for many fans.

Reasons to keep: Goals. Boyd will score them if given the chance, but those chances have been too few and too far between. His link-up play is generally good too, and he will lead the line with passion and force.

Reasons to cut: He carries a hefty wage – 10th highest player in MLS – that doesn’t match up to his return in goals. Perhaps not suited to the way Caleb Porter seeks to play. Seemingly not rated by Gavin Wilkinson.

Verdict: Unlikely to be back in Portland in 2013, though it’s not clear cut. There is talk of a potential return before the season is out

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[learn_more caption=”Eric Brunner”]
2012 Record: 12 Appearances (10 Starts), 0 Assists, 1 Goal

Eric Brunner was a solid part of the Timbers defence, and everything was going well for the ex-Columbus man until a concussion sustained against Vancouver in late May. He’s struggled to get back into the team since, making only two subs thanks to a subsequent knee injury, with David Horst – young, cheaper – having improved.

Reasons to keep: Still, arguably, the Timbers best defender, or 2nd behind Mosquera, if you’re a fan of the Colombian. Solid, reliable and fiercely committed.

Reasons to cut: Such a long lay-off with concussion is a big worry, and the knee injury doesn’t help matters. In his absence, Horst has stepped up and shown he can do a job at a fraction of the price of Brunner.

Verdict: He’ll be back, assuming there aren’t deeper, thus-far-unspoken concerns among the coaching team about his injuries. If anyone gets cut from the defence, one suspects it will be Futty Danso. Whether he can dislodge David Horst, only time will tell.

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[learn_more caption=”Bright Dike”]
2012 Record: 10 Appearances (7 Starts), 0 Assists, 4 Goals

When Dike was sent out on loan to LA Blues earlier this season, you could’ve been forgiven for thinking that his Timbers career was over. After netting 10 times for the Timbers in their last year in USL, he didn’t make a single start in 2011, though he did still find the net once. Since his return from LA though, Dike has score 4 times – only 3 fewer than club leader Boyd.

Reasons to keep: Goals – the man has scored them. 4 in only 731 minutes. He’s scored from the start, and as an impact sub. He’s a handful to play against and a willing and hard worker. Has got the goals in the new system. Even with his obvious deficiencies, he has the scoring habit, and that’s a good habit to have!

Reasons to cut: He has a pretty poor touch, and lacks the more “all round” ability of his attacking colleagues. He’s a rather one-dimensional player, which is great when it works but leaves the team bereft in attack when it doesn’t.

Verdict: He’s certainly earned a 2013 roster spot, but I’d fear for the team if he’s back as first choice. A good weapon to have in the arsenal.

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[learn_more caption=”Rodney Wallace”]
2012 Record: 18 Appearances (14 Starts), 1 Assist, 1 Goal

Wallace joined the Timbers in exchange for Dax McCarty befoer the start of the 2011 season, but has never really convinced in the left-back role he seemed to be earmarked for. Despite that, he’s racked up over 40 appearances for the MLS Timbers meaning only four current Timbers have logged more on-field minutes than he.

Reasons to keep: Can play all up the left-side and has turned his hand to a central midfield role too. He’s chipped in with a few goals and assists, and is still relatively young at 24.

Reasons to cut: Lapses in concentration can, and have, cost the Timbers dearly in defence and he simply isn’t as good as the other attacking options available. Commands a salary that is out of sync with his role as a squad player.

Verdict: Will be back, but only if the Timbers can’t find a taker for him.

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[learn_more caption=”Eric Alexander”]
2012 Record: 23 Appearances (13 Starts), 6 Assists, 0 Goals

Eric Alexander joined the Timbers from FC Dallas towards the end of the 2011 season in exchange for Jeremy Hall, but has failed to nail down a starting spot, with only 16 starts in his time as a Timber. An industrious and tidy midfielder with good range of passing.

Reasons to keep: The clubs leader in assists, despite being on the fringes of the starting XI. It wasn’t so long that he was on the fringes of the USMNT. Showed his game has steel when he subbed for Chara and acquitted himself well in a more defensive role. Still only 24, and not a big earner.

Reasons to cut: Assists fudged by at least a couple of those assists having more to do with Nagbe creating something out of nothing than Alexander’s work. Unable to impose himself on the team when he’s been given the chance. Had his work rate questioned by management.

Verdict: Trade bait. Underutilized, under-appreciated and seemingly unwanted by an organisation that can’t seem to find room for him in midfield.

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What do you think? Who goes, who stays, and whose place is up for debate?

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16 thoughts on “The Questionable Seven

  1. Boyd like Cooper before him suffers because we do not have the midfielders to give him good service. I hope that Porter can fix this problem because if he can then Boyd will be fine and Dike will be amazing coming off of the bench as a late game sub.

    1. Nope. Boyd doesn’t fit the system. He is lazy and they need a worker out there. Besides I don’t think anyone in MLS needs to be paying $1.5 million for a striker. Pay $1.5 million to a creative midfielder that can get a striker the ball in a position to score and we’ll talk.

      1. $1.5 million hanging over the Timbers head is exactly the reason that they keep him. He needs a shot to be productive and I think he can be under Porter and I think you are wrong about him being lazy. You are probably sitting in the Timbers Army and drinking the Kool-aid. He has become a scapegoat and just like Cooper he doesn’t deserve to be.

      2. This.

        We are stuck with his bill for another year, there is no getting out of that. It will be interesting to see how the front office and Porter take on this challenge. Unless the Front office can somehow do a reasonable trade we’re stuck with him, or they basically eat shit on his contract next year (I’m not sure if that means floating a DP or not…) At any rate if he is on the team next year, I think it will be a good challenge for Porter. Can he make adjustments of his team around precious/semi precious jewels? Or is he only good at going out and finding the type of talent he wants? How he handles what he has will mark next years season.

  2. Generally agree with your take on these players but I’d like to see E.A. given another shot. Perhaps I’m giving too much weight to results on the field but having the teams leading assist man on the bench for most of the season was baffling to me. Also, I feel like he still has some upside while Captain Jack is a known quantity.

    I’ll be curious to see what our new coach makes of Boyd. I still think he could be a great goal scorer in MLS and, just like Kenny Cooper, it would really hurt to see him find success on another team where he can get proper service. However, if Mr. Porter is sure that his style won’t fit the new system I suppose I can accept that.

    1. As do I. I hear the argument that maybe Porter already knows he’s keeping Alexander, so he doesn’t need to have him “try out”, but at the same time – 1 start in the last 13? That doesn’t strike me as a guy who’s wanted. There just doesn’t seem to be room for him in a midfield when Jewsbury, Chara and Nagbe basically have it locked down.

  3. Unfortunately, I think the biggest tell in next years keepers and starters is looking at who is getting played right now.
    Being that I havn’t seen any real change in tactics since Spencer’s departure; I see no reason to believe there will be a major shift after Porter’s arrival.

    Sadly, next year will be completely similar.

  4. The one thing that wasn’t mentioned regarding Wallace, he’s really fucking expensive.

    Also, is Franck floating in the No Man’s Land between these 7 and the trifecta of Hanyer, Darlington & Diego? I would hope he & Smith are retained long before Rodney (and I don’t particularly hate Rod, just don’t think he’s worth his paycheck).

    1. Just like you, I wonder where the rest of the squad would be listed here. If a player’s not discussed here, does that mean he’s above Kevin’s cut line or below it? Songo’o would be above it, I imagine. Zizzo? Above, I hope. Lovell Palmer? WAAAAAY below it. Smith? Kimura? Horst? I have no idea. The keepers? Dunno.

      1. For the sake of keeping it short, I picked out the seven that I thought were more pressing or interesting to talk about.

        Songo’o, I think, is a lock to stay. Zizzo has earned a roster spot, IMO – like Dike, I’m not sure if it’s as a starter next season – but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was traded out if the right offers come along, and given his form recently, I wouldn’t rule out a mid-table side taking such a punt on him.

        Palmer, I can’t see what purpose keeping him on would serve. To be honest, I’d pay him his current wage just to stay home, but that’s probably why I’m not the guy in charge! Kimura, I’d be surprised rto see him cut considering his time has been so short, but equally, I don’t think he’s exactly covered himself in glory.

        Smith stays, if Smith wants to. Horst is decent value for cover. As I said, if any defender is cut to make way for a new guy, I think it’s Danso, and Brunner’s injuries may just nudge him a little closer to the cut list than Horst.

        Mwanga is an interesting one. I think he would fit under Porter’s style, but he doesn’t seem to be getting a fair shake under GW. He’s on big wages, going by the salary information released (cue MP’s warning about reading too much into that) so I don’t see any other MLS clubs taking him on. Fucito, gone. Purdy, gone.

        The GK is the big unknowable. Ricketts is a big cap hit for a guy on the downslope of his career, and who came with massive “buyer beware” notices regarding injury proneness. I think Bendik did well, and Gleeson was decent in what little we saw of him last year. I can’t say any of these guys inspire me that they’re “game savers”, but it’s a brave organisation that goes out there and pays the big bucks for a keeper when it’s strikers and creative midfielders that get fans excited.

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