One of the original four Portland Timbers of the MLS era (and the only one still employed as a professional footballer today), Bright Dike went from the rags of the third division of US soccer to the riches of the international soccer stage, all in the eight-month span of the 2012 season.
When news of Kenny Cooper's transfer to New York hit, many fans expected Bright Dike to be more involved in the 2012 starting lineup, after spending much of 2011 recovering from a pre-season Achilles rupture. But with Kris Boyd added to the roster in January, Dike's prospects for a starting role dried up. Indeed, despite reportedly being in the best shape of his professional career after spending the offseason in Nigeria, Dike was once again relegated -- first to the reserves, and then to the Los Angeles Blues of USL Pro.
But Dike refused to be ignored in Californian obscurity, tallying a team-leading six goals and being named to the All-League Second Team, all in spite of playing in just ten of his team's 24 matches. The Timbers brought him back in August, after which he continued his scoring run, adding five in twelve MLS appearances to close out the season.
His 2012 performance was enough, in sum, to pique the interest of the Nigerian National Team, which started him in their 3-1 friendly victory against Venezuela on November 14. It is not yet clear whether Dike will be named to the squad that will participate in the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
Even though his first touch can be frustrating to watch and his passing ability can leave a lot to be desired, Dike's size and strength strike fear in opposing defenders (and teammates) and help open space for him to connect with crosses into the box, where he is able to finish from all angles, with both his head and his feet.
Should he stay?
For all his flaws as a player, Dike is the most confident and effective forward in the 4-3-3 the Timbers started playing at the end of 2012, a formation that is very likely Caleb Porter-influenced and similar to the one we'll see the Timbers in for 2013. Unless Kris Boyd or Danny Mwanga can outshine him or until Jose Valencia has proved he is what the Timbers expected and he is ready for a starting spot, the Timbers need a forward like Dike who believes he can score and very often finds away to do so.
Dissent (Andrew Wheeler):
Dike is a hard worker and has showed a high level of professionalism and maturity while working his way back from injury, and up through the professional soccer ranks. Though just 25 and at the low end of the salary schedule, he has shown an ability to score in MLS, and, with a few improvements to various aspects of his game, could become one of the more prolific goal scorers in the league. What's more, his rise in 2012 has drawn loads of attention, both within MLS and around the world. He should be a regular starter, somewhere, in 2013.
All of which means that no player currently on contract with the Timbers has as much potential trade value as Dike. Considering the Timbers' crowded striker corps, if an opportunity arises that could allow the Timbers to part with Dike in exchange for filling a greater need elsewhere on the pitch, Porter & Co should make that deal.