UPDATE: I changed some of the formatting of this article, but the content is untouched. -Will
The Mwanga trade, Andrew Wheeler's great post about TEAM CHANGE , and the fallout after Cal FC gate 2012 got me to finally just post this. It isn't groundbreaking or necessarily an OpEd but more of gauge of what opinions are on the Reserve League, our GD18, building towards the future, and how you might get there.
I had been thinking about where the league will expand, how many teams will it top out at, and how will it impact the lower tiers including and specifically the reserve league. USL/NASL have said that they would welcome MLS reserve teams and players into their regular season play which would bring more exposure to their leagues but also give reserve players (Braun, Gleeson, Jean-Baptiste, Kawulok, Renken, Richards, Rincon, Taylor, and Valencia) more matches to hone their skills. Over time my thoughts have turned towards our game day 18, starting 11, and how we fill those positions now and in the future. This year I have been tracking the GD18 to see whom the coaches considered to be our top team. Clearly with injuries and national call-ups the lineup hasn't been filled quite to my expectations or what I think the coaches feel is our true 1st team but I believe it can be used as a barometer.
During the WHL Championship there was an interesting blog from the Vancouver Province about the Portland Winter Hawks ability to draw top American talent that have been NCAA bound. What struck me was a quote from the GM/Coach Mike Johnston. He said "I’ll overpay on picks to get a player we need, but I’m not going to move a guy on our team now who’s going to be here for three or four years." Johnston added "We have our team projected for three years from now…".
While Johnston made me feel better about the Hawks game 7 defeat with his foresight it actually made me ponder if the Timbers and GW have a similar roadmap. Tracking the GD18 obviously shows trends of the coaching staff decisions but to some extent their preferences like Futty starting each game after he came back from injury or Dike being an unused sub in every match prior to his loan to LAB. I wish our depth was more reliable but in my opinion (I am well aware that my choices will get jeers for its exclusions but I stand by them. ) I only count eight players that are legitimate starters with three of them central defenders and one a keeper (Boyd, Brunner, Chara, Futty, Mosquera, Nagbe, Perkins, and Zizzo).
So lets cut to the meat of the matter if you will with a list of questions.
- How do we get a true starting 11 in Portland and build depth behind them?
- Should there be more formation shifts to allow for talent that may be on the team but not utilized?
- Should we trade for players or let the team gain more experiences with each other?
- How do we integrate our prospects/reserves into the system over time and how to we get them more productive minutes now?
- Do we need to change something every season? How much tinkering is really needed?