Portland Timbers fans, bloggers, beat writers and front office personnel alike were at least cautiously optimistic about the impending arrival of Scottish striker Kris Boyd, upon the announcement of his acquisition back in January.
While there were some dissenting voices (notably Stumptown Footy community member Dan Brunell), most of us were excited to see what a real goal scorer could do after Kenny Cooper's disappointing first year back in MLS.
What followed wasn't exactly a bad year. He led the Timbers in goals, shots on goal, and goals+assists. He dazzled at times with his ability to turn a bad pass into a shot on target. And his goals (and celebrations) against Vancouver and Seattle showed just how much he understood the Cascadia rivalry.
But the lack of wins early in the season, in spite of his presence, led John Spencer to focus ever more on getting the team's midfielders to give the right kind of service to Boyd. The result was stagnation in the rest of the lineup, punctuated by an eleven-match streak from the start of April to the end of June in which Timbers players not named Kris Boyd scored just three goals.
Just as telling, Boyd scored goals in six games; Portland won just two of them.
So it would appear that, at least in Kris Boyd's first year as a Timber, despite the quality Boyd brought, Merritt's words in January about him fitting "the profile of the team's needs" have not rung true. But could he still be seen as a good investment?
Geoff Gibson: D-
The Timbers FO thought they had it all down before the beginning of the 2012 season. It's almost funny now looking back on just how wrong they were. Their final piece to the MLS puzzle? Kris Boyd. Today, we know that his signing didn't really make any sense. He's was a poacher for a team that had absolutely no creative ability.
I don't blame Boyd, but I do blame the front office for not realizing what they actually had when they signed him. The fact that they seemingly made the decision in the few days between when Boyd turned down the Houston Dynamo and when he signed with the Timbers proves just how rushed this decision was.
Ryan Gates D+
It all boils down to the fact that Kris Boyd is a player who needs a specific style of play to be successful. Portland, halfway through the year, went away from that style of play and now look like they won't be using that style. For all those reasons Portland acquiring Kris Boyd was one decision that barely gets a passing grade. The only reason it gets a passing grade is because of the fact that he did still end up being the leading scorer on the team while wasting away on the bench during the second half of the season.
Will Conwell C+
Kris Boyd was always going to take a while to return to form after being out of the professional game for the duration of his trials and tribulations in Turkey. Boyd fit in with John Spencer's preferred formation and should have been a good fit for a team trying to build off of a successful first season in MLS.
However, a dysfunctional midfield and a mounting pressure to start winning saw Spencer, and later Gavin Wilkinson, experiment more and more with the formation on the field and move the play away from the style in which Boyd had thrived for most of his career. With the season's end, many are wishing for that first round draft pick back, but it is hard to fault the team for bringing in a pedigreed striker to take over for the team's departed leading scorer. Boyd was a good idea, but he was not given the time, the support, and the system that he needed to succeed.
Stacey Neve: C
Kris Boyd did score goals and he most likely would have scored more if he had not been benched in August as the Timbers tried out a new formation. However, for the second year in a row the Timbers went out looking for a goalscorer and for the second year in a row, the player they brought back wasn't really what the team needed. Boyd was well known enough that the one would assume the front office what his style of play was, and it was overly optimistic to assume that the Timbers could work with that style and provide him the service he needed to score a slew of goals the way he did in the Scottish Premier League. In addition, the pressure to get the ball to Boyd often seemed to hinder the rest of the offense and other players seemed hesitant to shoot the ball themselves.
It's easy to see why the FO was drawn to a player who they thought would score lots and lots of goals for the Timbers, but Boyd wasn't the right fit for this Timbers team.
Andrew Wheeler: D
The Minnesota sports fan in me grimaced when the news arrived that the Timbers had acquired Boyd. Minnesota sports teams have a dubious history of making gargantuan investments in single players, only to see the teams finish at the bottom of the league for years to come. In the back of my mind, I was thinking: 'Herschel Walker, Kevin Garnett, Kirby Puckett, Randy Moss, Joe Mauer. And now Kris Boyd.' At the time, in January, I pushed my doubts to the wayside, as even the most hardened Minnesotans are wont to do. But those doubts never went far. They always come back.
I hope he sticks around for another year, because I think he still has a lot to offer a team that knows better how to use him. But knowing what we know now, there's no way acquiring Kris Boyd was the right move.