We ALL know that the Timbers have a lot of work to do in the off season. There's a new coach coming in, guys need to remain fit now that we know for sure that they're getting an extra month off compared to the teams they want to be hanging with next season, and there are some glaring (and some not so obvious) holes in the lineup that need attention.
I'm just going to to do a basic rundown of each position as the Timbers currently play it, thinking of either a 4-4-2, or more likely, a 4-3-3. I'm definitely not an expert. Where I can, I'll make some educated suggestions about who might be available to fill the roles we need as well as looking at who stays and who goes.
Forward - This is the position that I feel like needs the least work and attention. It doesn't mean that the guys we have need to continue to step up, but when we're on, we're scoring enough goals that a refocusing on the midfield and backline should result in more clean sheets and more points at home and, crucially, on the road.
Staying: Boyd, Dike, Mwanga, Richards, Valencia
Leaving: Boyd, Fucito, Richards, Rincon
Yes, I included both Boyd and Richards on both lists. I'm going to keep doing it. Essentially, I think Boyd goes if we can find someplace for him to go. But I don't think that'll happen, especially with his injury now. In addition, I think we keep him on the roster, even just as the most expensive SuperSub ever if we can't. I doubt Paulson will eat Boyd's contract anytime soon. Richards has looked as good as I can expect anyone of his age and talent level to look. I just think he's good trade bait when we've got more experienced guys. The trade bait label applies to Fucito and Rincon too, as much as I respect Fucito.
Midfield - This is a complicated group of guys. In a lot of ways, their play makes or breaks our team. I'm in agreement with a lot of other commenters that we need a true distributor somewhere in this group and they haven't made themselves apparent yet. Most likely, we're looking outside.
Staying: Alexander, Alhassan, Chara, Jewsbury, Nagbe, Songo'o, Zizzo
Leaving: Alhassan, Braun, Jewsbury, Palmer, Renken, Wallace
A lot of these guys are staying because I think it's a mistake to start over completely from scratch. Alexander is an excellent sub, if nothing else and Chara's a DP for one more season even if I agree that he's one of the most underwhelming DPs in the league. Captain Jack will only go if someone makes a great offer. Nagbe's the new heart of Caleb Porter's team. Songo'o has shown more creativity in his right foot than many of our guys have in their whole bodies this season. A little work on passing when he needs to and his desire to beat guys one-on-one will prove even more dangerous. Zizzo can continue to slay on the right side if he stays on form.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Alhassan stay, but he seems to have spent most of this season injured and the last time I remember feeling like he was playing in a truly inspired way was opening night against Philly. Still, he's good enough to get us something else and he's making almost $80,000. Palmer needs to go. Renken is good trade bait again. Wallace may or may not leave. He's looked more impressive standing in for Chara of late than he ever has. It may simply inflate his trade value or he could stick around.
As for our new distributor, I'm still kicking the FO for ever letting Dax McCarty out of our sights. There are options. Caleb Porter has a current sophmore on his Akron team in Wil Trapp who may develop into just this kind of player. He won't solve our problems next year though. He's too young and he's part of the Crew's Dev. Academy. Still, Porter knows all about him and if it's still an issue a year or two from now, you might see his name. Hendry Thomas just showed up in Colorado, but I think he could be this kind of guy. This one's a tough nut to crack.
Defense - Our defense has been sorely lacking all year. And yet, I don't feel that they're as horrible as they're given credit for. A major player pickup, a little work, a lot of spit and polish, and I feel like we could have a truly solid group back there.
Staying: Brunner, Hogg, Jean-Baptiste, Kawulok, Kimura, Mosquera, Smith
Leaving: Futty, Horst, Purdy, Taylor
Brunner stays. I feel like we've been missing him for far too long and his absence is a big part of the reason our form has been less excellent than last year. I came into the season feeling great about all these guys. Brunner went down and it's never been the same. Hogg's the new guy. GW will do what he can to at least give the kid a chance and I doubt he's costing us much. AJB looks good when he plays. He was instrumental at the beginning of the year. Look for Porter to continue to try and develop him. Ditto Kawulok except for the start of the year bit. Kimura is too valuable simply as a backup for him to be leaving. I do believe we should be looking at finding someone to take his starting spot though. Mosquera needs work, but he's certainly serviceable. Smith has been solid for several months now. He had a shaky start at the Timbers, but after finding his feet has been great. He adds to the attack, defends when it's needed, and apparently knows how to play hands free goal keeper. He might be Spencer's best Scottish pickup by a mile.
Futty's been spending time with the reserves only for quite a while now. I don't know if it's simply that GW doesn't like him or what. Expect that one acceptable but not stellar stand in against DC doesn't buy him another year. I love Horst's energy, but he simply makes too many mistakes.
Here's where my pickup predictions get really exciting. We need a veteran guy somewhere on this line to get the chatter going, get some sort of cohesive plan in place during the game, and to lock things down. This is especially true as we move away from Ricketts and toward Gleeson or Bendik. Michael Orozco Fiscal has expressed some serious interest in returning to MLS from Liga MX. He's getting more playing time for Klinsmann than he is at San Luis. It appears that he's just not favored by his coach. He's strong, experienced, National Team quality, and he can play RB or CB. Why wouldn't we want him? Salary cap is the only reason I can think of. I expect we can find a way to make room if he was interested.
Thanks for reading. That was far too long.