|Having this guy be healthy is paramount for success in 2018 for Portland.
Roster compliance day is approximately March 1, 2018, so for now, the Timbers don't have to worry about roster composition just yet. With thoughts circling about that the team is going after another forward to help up top (rumors persist that the Timbers are going after Swedish striker Samuel Armenteros), Timbers Technical Director Gavin Wilkinson has been very busy filling the roster with adding midfielder Cristhian Paredes to the active roster on February 2. Following the transactions that aided the defense (Julio Cascante, Modou Jadama, Bill Tuiloma), forwards (Andy Polo, Foster Langsdorf) and midfield (Eryk Williamson, Andres Flores, this transaction fortifies the central midfield by adding reinforcements for a recovering Diego Chara (injured in the 2017 playoffs) and accounting for David Guzman's time away this summer for the World Cup. What it also signals is adding youth to a club that needed to add some balance age wise: Olum Ridgewell & Miller are currently 33 while Chara and Valeri are 31, but adding Paredes (19), Polo (23), Williamson (21) and Tuiloma (22) bring some balance to the overall mix. If we do a big overview of how the roster shapes out now, the Timbers have an intriguing balance of experience and youth, speed and savvy, and interesting potential within their group:
|Are you team Jake or team Jeff?
Goalkeepers (3): Jeff Attinella, Jake Gleeson, Kendall McIntosh
Wing Defenders (5): Marco Farfan, Vytas, Alvas Powell, Zarek Valetin, Chance Myers
Center Backs (7): Liam Ridgewell, Larrys Mabiala, Roy Miller, Rennico Clarke, Julio Cascante, Bill Tuiloma, Modou Jadama
Defensive Midfielders (4): David Guzman, Diego Chara, Lawrence Olum, Cristhian Paredes
Attacking Midfielders (7): Sebastian Blanco, Dairon Asprilla, Diego Valeri, Jack Barmby, Victor Arboleda, Eryk Williamson, Andres Flores
Forwards (4): Fanendo Adi, Jeremy Ebobisse, Foster Langsdorf, Andy Polo, Samuel Armenteros
Current Trialists (3): M Dustin Corea, GK Alex Mangels, M Renzo Zambrano
Timbers Super Draft Selections (4): D Caleb Duvernay (61, N.C. State), F Tim Mueller (63, Oregon State), F Stuart Holthusen (64, University of Akron), F Mamadou Guirassay (87, New Jersey Institute of Technology)
Timbers On Loan (1): Lucas Melano, Estudiantes
Timbers Designated Players (3): Fanendo Adi, Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri
Generation Adidas Players (0):
Timbers Home Grown Players (3): Marco Farfan, Eryk Williamson, Foster Langsdorf
International Players (10 total, potential green card candidates in italics): Vytas, Sebastian Blanco, Julio Cascante, Rennico Clarke, Larrys Mabiala, Cristhian Paredes, Andy Polo, Liam Ridgewell, Bill Tuiloma, Samuel Armenteros (NOTE: David Guzman & Jack Barmby received their green cards in 2017 offseason)
Timbers 2 Roster (10): D Lamar Batista, M Blake Bodily, M Tomas Granitto, GK Wade Hamilton, D Harold Hanson, M Andre Lewis, M Terrell Lowe, D Max Ornstil, F Augustine Williams, M Renzo Zambrano
The news that striker Samuel Armenteros is officially in town and was officially signed soon does change the complexion of the club roster greatly. After photos of Armeteros at Portland International Airport hit social media and several tweets indicating a medical exam had occurred, the rumors became very official days later when the team confirmed his addition. Armenteros does have a decent scoring pedigree, and at 27 years old, he could provide a scoring punch for many more seasons. Portland used targeted allocation money (TAM is designed to either pay down a salary number currently on the books, but it can also be used to bring down a proposed salary number for a new player) to bring Armenteros aboard on a loan deal for 2018, but they have the right for a purchase option for subsequent seasons. The signing brings the current roster to 31 signed players not including draft picks, so the Timbers would be 1 over the current allotted 30 if the season started today. All the moves bring intriguing talent and depth across the board, but it does add even more complexity for Savarese and his coaches to determine the starting mix of players that will begin play for the Timbers in March and appear regularly. If we break down the position battles in each category, there's still plenty of queries that need to be addressed before the season opener against the Galaxy in California on March 4.
|Yes, Larrys, we found some healthy center backs to play soccer with you.
Wing Defenders: Will the real Alvas Powell finally show up in 2018? He's always seemed to be on the cusp of something great, but his performance has usually been erratic at best if he's not injured. At times, his contributions to the offense can't offset the issues in defending, but it's followed up by a great defensive effort yet no aid to the attack. While I think the veteran combination of Vytas and Valentin will get the bulk of the minutes and Farfan will press for spot appearances as he gains exposure and confidence, this group will only get stronger if Powell can contribute consistently, especially on both ends. I'm still expecting Savarese to employ overlapping runs on offense and distribution from the fullbacks, so this group will need to stand up and be heard regularly if the Timbers are going to have any success this year. Vytas is the best crosser of the group and Valentin is the unsung heart, but if Powell can tap into his potential, it could rise the entire profile of this group from average to exceptional. It's great to have someone with a ton of experience with Myers available off the bench, but much like 2017, Myers would only really appear if there are significant injuries or absences to the other players.
|Sebastian Blanco become more valuable as 2017 progressed. On to 2018!
Defensive Midfielder: Let's be perfectly honest, as long as Chara and Guzman are healthy and available, they will plug into the central midfielder each and every week. Between organizing the first line of defense, creating turnovers, frustrating attacking midfielder and providing distribution for the offense or defense, Diego and David are huge keys for the Timbers. Their status, however, is a bit up in the air - Chara broke his foot during the playoffs and is close to returning to full practice, while Guzman will be with the Costa Rican national team this summer for the 2018 World Cup. With both players also being among the leaders on the team in cautions and any suspensions for accumulation, having depth here is a huge priority for Portland. While Olum and Valentin can provide cover here - Olum was actually signed for depth here and Valentin has filled in admirably when needed - it's the acquisition of Paredes that has folks excited. While still in his teens, Paredes has shown similar skills in distribution and creating turnovers in previous stops, and if he's able to continue this trend and further expand on his skills, he could eventually be the heir apparent in the midfield in a few years. I don't expect Chara to go anywhere anytime soon, but having a viable succession plan is paramount for this team.
|Adding veterans is good, but this is a big offseason to cultivate Timbers youth.
Forwards: The Timbers offense was successful for most of 2017 until Adi was injured in August playing the Los Angeles Galaxy. While the group continued to score reasonably well, the threat of having a consistent scorer as the lone striker was diminished greatly when Darren Mattocks and Ebobisse were the main options. While both forwards had moments of greatness, it didn't measure up to what Fanendo was able to do when healthy and available. Adi is back and ready to go, and while Mattocks has packed his bags to head to D.C. United for this year, Ebobisse is back as well. The two have some big company with the additions of Polo, Langsdorf and Armenteros. Langsdorf completed a very successful collegiate career as an accomplished scorer while also being a member of the Timbers Academy, so adding his as a Home Grown Player was a huge coup for Portland. The other two adds had some intrigue to them - Polo was targeted for several weeks before his services were eventually acquired, but there were several moments where the deal looked dead. Armenteros was a late add to the side on a loan deal, but his pedigree as an accomplished scorer just adds more spice to a quintet that already has powerful options. We might not see as much of Adi as the lone striker or there might actually be a rotation of talent depending upon form, but what Savarese has here is differing options. Adi can hold the ball in traffic well, distribute and find supporting runs, which actually mirrors much of what Ebobisse brings to the table, while I would consider Langsdorf more of a traditional soccer scorer. The elements of speed with Polo and headiness with Armenteros means the Timbers could employ 4 - 3 - 3 or 4 - 4 - 2 and still possess dangerous options up top.
|I think these guys and gals are ready for March.