As the dust settles on the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, I thought it would be a good time to catch up with the Portland Timbers and their offseason moves so far in this, their true first offseason as a Major League Soccer franchise.
Way back at the end of their inaugural campaign where the team narrowly missed the playoffs, Coach John Spencer decided to keep the squad intact and train together up until the MLS Cup. The thought being the teams’ fitness would be much better when the club reconvened for the 2012 season. Post-MLS Cup, news had been fairly quiet. The team made small moves, parting ways with a few reserve players and remained fairly low profile for a team whose front office was openly touting that changes were coming.
The first significant move happened in December when the club announced the signing of up and coming Columbian striker Jose Adolfo Valencia. The 19 year old from Independiente Santa Fe in Colombia fits owner Merritt Paulson’s vision of getting little known players on their way up as opposed to over paying star players at the end of their career. Valencia, or “El Trencito (The Little Train),” fits this bill.
Rumors of other international signings have surfaced over the past several weeks but nothing has materialized as of yet. Thursdays SuperDraft produced promising talent with the Timbers grabbing UConn Center Back Andrew Jean-Baptistse, a player with size and tremendous upside but who may not be MLS ready. In the 2nd round they picked up a Midfielder from Notre Dame, Brendan King, who enjoyed a solid career for the Fighting Irish yet will his skills translate to the MLS?
The “biggest” move thus far, was the draft day trade of Kenny Cooper to RBNY in exchange for a 2013 1st round pick and conditional allocation money. Cooper was a polarizing player in Portland. Some fans we’re glad to see him go, being upset with his inconsistency and lack of goal scoring during the 2011 season, others (like myself) appreciated his hard work on the pitch, his size in the box and also felt that Cooper was just starting to settle in to his role as the season came to a close.
As a Timbers fan, I have to hope the front office isn’t done making moves. Does the Cooper trade suggest the team has a potential deal in place for another Striker? Going into the 2012 season with Jorge Perlaza and Valencia as your forwards, seems a step backwards to me. Even on the back line, where the squad needs the most help, drafting a raw 19 year old out of college doesn’t exactly make me think that the position has been upgraded (especially since starter David Horst will be out 5-7 months after hip surgery).
Hopefully, as the “Offseason Report #1” suggests, this is still a work in progress. I like that management has made moves to acquire promising assets, however, one would feel much more confident if some proven assets could be acquired prior to First Kick as well.