The 2012 season has been an absolute disaster in just about every way it could have been. Hopes were high at the start of the season because of the relative success of the 2011 campaign, and many of us scoffed at pundits who dared predict the Timbers might finish in sixth place in the Western Conference. Instead, as we're all keenly aware, the Timbers might finish last, and nearly every part of the Timbers organization has lost face.
Over the course of the season the front office has made decisions that either helped or hurt the team and its image. We here at Stumptown Footy tend to take a default position of neutrality when such decisions come up, giving the front office the benefit of the doubt, knowing that we don't have access to all the facts.
Thank goodness for hindsight.
We're going to start with the Timbers' surprise decision, on August 7, to trade Troy Perkins to the Montreal Impact in exchange for Donovan Ricketts. At the time, Gavin Wilkinson characterized the trade as an upgrade, saying,
Donovan has been an impact player since he joined MLS and is one of the top-performing goalkeepers in the league. Troy has been an important player for us, but we as a coaching staff saw this as an opportunity to improve the position, while optimizing our budget numbers in 2012 and 2013. Donovan has a great presence and will provide us with tremendous experience and leadership. He has a proven track record in MLS and has shown he can consistently play well at the highest level.
Since then Ricketts has played well at the keeper position (although he has missed three matches), and his distribution has seemed marginally better than Perkins'. But the consensus among Stumptown Footy editors is that it is difficult to pick out what exactly GW was referring to when he called Ricketts an upgrade.
Stacey Neve: C-
This Donovan Ricketts is not the same keeper who played so well for the LA Galaxy and the Jamaican National team just a few years ago, and this Donovan Ricketts is not a better goalkeeper than Troy Perkins. He's not significantly worse either, but this was a serious blow to the relationship between the fans and the front office.Obviously you can't keep a guy around for being a fan favorite, but if you have a perfectly acceptable keeper who fans love, you better hang on to him unless someone offers you something decidedly, unquestionably better.
Wilkinson and Merritt must have completely ignored Montreal this year, because it's hard to believe anyone who had seen a few of their games could have considered this trade honestly and felt confident that Ricketts was going to be much better than Perkins. I hope Ricketts is mentoring the heck out of our young keepers, otherwise I'm not sure this trade had any upside.
Ryan Gates: C-
Trading for Donovan Ricketts was one of the more baffling trades Portland has ever made. If they thought Ricketts was going to return to his 2010 form, then maybe it might have been a good trade, but all indications pointed to him not returning to that form. If he was brought here to help mentor the CB's and the young goalkeepers with an eye to the future, it might yet turn out not to be a bad trade, but it won't be a good trade either.
The trade will most likely be remembered for a long time and used as one of the pieces of evidence for those who are calling for the departure of GM Gavin Wilkinson.
Andrew Wheeler: D
By August, the Portland Timbers' season was already lost. The typical mode of a non-playoff team is to trade aging, experienced guys for the prospect of future success. The losing team's goal is to be better off in one or two years than it is today. That should have been the Timbers. The team's experienced players, like Troy Perkins, should have been shopped around to playoff-bound teams that might have been looking for more experience for a playoff run.
Take the New York Red Bulls -- they were in need of an experienced keeper in July and certainly could have used Perkins. Instead the Timbers missed the opportunity, as NYRB acquired Bill Gaudette from the LA Galaxy in exchange for a 2014 Supplemental Draft pick. And the Timbers inexplicably traded Perkins for Ricketts instead.
Now, Supplemental Draft picks are rarely the stuff dreams are made of, but at least it's something. So how does it make sense that the LA Galaxy might, in two years, have benefited more from trading their second string keeper than the Timbers had from trading their first string keeper? It doesn't.