A Familiar Position

right backRare has been the day during this offseason where the Portland Timbers have been the quiet MLS team in terms of roster moves. Yesterday’s thrilling MLS Re-Entry Draft part 2 saw the Timbers stand pat while a few other teams added discarded parts to their rosters via conference call.

Standing pat is not part of the DNA of the club’s management and ownership, however, so we were assured that more action is expected to come. While not confirming that the club is chasing after Mix Diskerud, Gavin Wilkinson said that they are looking for a player with precisely Diskerud’s skills set.

“An attacking midfielder who is creative and can dictate play is definitely a position we’re targeting,” Wilkinson said.


Add this comment to the fact that Merritt Paulson just happens to be not-so-randomly Twitter following an attacking midfielder from Norward who is creative and can dictate play  and I think it is safe to say that Diskerud is indeed in the mix. That doesn’t mean it will happen. We’ve been here before. You may recall that back in 2011 when the parts were first being assembled Paulson assured the fan base that the team was going to get the best attacking midfielder in MLS. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about Jack Jewsbury.

That one apparently got away and so could Diskerud. The need for such a player won’t, however. Looking at the depth chart compiled over at Slide Rule Pass and you don’t see a lot (or any) midfielders who fill that role. Nagbe? Didn’t fit the bill when asked to play attacking mid. Alexander? Hasn’t been given much of chance but his lack of speed would be my main concern. Will Johnson? Perhaps, but his value would be greater as a linking box to box guy. Chara? He’s needed to provide defensive cover.

This isn’t just a challenging position for the Timbers to fill. It is a void that many teams have in MLS. That is why the move to land Diskerud is so intriguing and exciting.

We also learned from Paulson yesterday:

Two areas where GW/CP still want to make additions: creative mid and right back. Goal is to have all spots filled by start of pre-season.

Like the creative mid position, right back has been a problem area for the Timbers since the end of the Scot Thompson era. Think about the guys who have been trotted out to play the position: Steve Purdy, Jeremy Hall, Lovel Palmer, Freddie Braun, Jack Jewsbury, Sal Zizzo, and Kosuke Kimura, just to name a few. I would argue that Jewsbury had the most success of any of them on the list, but he apparently doesn’t want to play there and he is also clearly not a long-term solution.

That leaves another year of searching for the right fit at right back. Some have brought up Jonathan Bornstein’s name, but he is more of a left side player if he is not playing in the middle. I suppose that if he were acquired then Michael Harrington could be moved to the right side. But as we have learned by now there isn’t much subtlety when Paulson is involved so I think when he means they are targeting a right back he means it is a true right back, Ecuadorian or otherwise.

Hopefully this year they will get it sorted out before training camp. With a new manager and so many new players, this team can’t afford to wait until the season has started to have all the parts in place.

One thought on “A Familiar Position

  1. I have to say; with the Diskerud deal apparently dead, we really ARE back where we started from. I worry that the lack of a creative attacking midfielder really is going to be a continuing problem; as you point out, that sort of player is damn rare and expensive, and the Timbers’ FO (read: Gavin) isn’t famed for its/his perceptive skills in finding and evaluating players.

    I think that RB is solveable, but I worry that we’ll see another season where the ball gets lost between the midfield and the opponent’s goal. Ugh.

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