Gavin on Timbers Offseason Plans: Needs, Moves, and Nagbe

Jonathan Ferrey

Gavin Wilkinson made an appearance on Timbers in 30 last Friday and Schonz_Rocks typed up, and gave us his thoughts on, some of Wilkinson's comments. Check it out.

From Timbers in 30:

When asked about positions the team is looking at for 2014:

We've looked at 3 positions, basically. We want to acquire another defender, somebody that gives us a little bit more experience, somebody that gives us a little bit more size. We're not a big team.

Also we're looking at a player that gives us a little bit more speed out wide. Somebody that can keep defenders honest. Somebody that can penetrate and get in behind. And I suppose stretch defenders and allow us the ability to play through the middle of the park. When you have a Will Johnson, a Diego Chara, and a Diego Valeri, stretching the field creates more space for those players.

And then I think you have to look at a #9. Ryan Johnson is out of contract. We've made a bonafide offer to bring him back, but I think his short term goals are to get overseas and see how he performs overseas, and that means that we are left with a little bit of a hole. So we do have to go out and find a #9 that can complement Urruti and share time and also succeed and help us repeat what we did this season.

My assumption is that the team is looking to bring in another central defender, since you don't typically focus on size among outside backs. Since Gavin mentioned Kah elsewhere in the interview (and said a couple weeks ago on ETR that Kah has a contract for next season), my guess is the team is looking for a big CB to pair with Kah. It's possible that it's actually AJB or even Silvestre that the team wants to pair with the big experienced CB, but my guess is that it's Kah. Obviously bringing in another CB doesn't bode well for the guys down in the pecking order, like Futty and possibly Horst, who would have one more player he would have to climb above as he comes back from injury.

The speed out wide, if the team sticks with a 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1, would likely be in place of / competing with Wallace. Nagbe isn't being replaced, obviously, so that means it must be Wallace. That doesn't bode well for Zizzo, who in theory is that player (wide player with speed to get in behind), but hasn't proven to be effective in that role, particularly since his injury. There has been some speculation on STF (and lots on S@H) that Steve Zakuani may try to resurrect his career in Portland, as he would be a very good fit for what the Timbers try to do going forward and Porter is his former coach, but such a deal would require a trade with Seattle for his rights (I'm not sure how likely it is that happens) or for Zakuani to fall to Portland in the Re-Entry Draft (I don't think that would happen), as well as Zakuani to renegotiate his contract down significantly. Downsides are that Zakuani really struggled with injuries in 2013 and he doesn't track back on defense at all (think Kalif 2011 and 2012).

It was generally known that RJ was out of contract, and there was a lot of speculation about his future with the team. He was a streaky goal scorer this season, as he has been throughout his career. Some matches he was effective putting pressure on the defense, both out wide and in the middle, while other matches he seemingly disappeared. But his strike rate (0.46 goals / 90) was decent (and led the team), he contributed the same total goals and assists as Nagbe (9 and 4) and led the team in scoring percentage (Goals / Shots) [other than Zizzo's 1 goal in 2 shots]. I had assumed the Portland would try to bring in another striker as a starter or the presumed top backup, and with my belief that the team views Urruti as the starter or possibly top backup, I had assumed RJ would not be a Timber in 2014 because he wouldn't want to be the 3rd fiddle in a 1-striker formation and he makes too much money for that role. This solidifies the idea that he's leaving. By making him a bonafide offer the Timbers will retain his rights if he returns to MLS in the future.

The comment also implies to me that Piquionne isn't returning, which again isn't a big surprise. He was slow to heal from his ankle knock, and he obviously was injured in the last match against RSL and was on crutches after the match. I think the team will miss some aspects of his play (good in the air, solid hold-up play, excellent in the air defending set pieces and corners), but he didn't seem like the right fit for the system to me. He was brought in specifically to cover for Dike's loss to injury (it was even stated as such), so I didn't expect him to return. Gavin's phrasing makes me think that the team views Urruti as at least potentially the starter for next season. I expect the player the team brings in will play a different style than Urruti.

The (rumored) loan of Valencia makes more sense now (not that it necessarily didn't before) with the team planning to bring in another striker to split time with Urruti, meaning that Valencia would again spend the season not getting a lot of time. That wouldn't be good for his development and would likely be frustrating to him.


Gavin went on to respond to questions about Nagbe and Chara:

I think one of the things you learn to appreciate about Darlington, he's very genuine, and one of his quotes is that he'd much rather be a better person than a player. On the flip side, a lot of times you would say you want them to be a better player than a person, but it drives who he is and it drives his motivation. He has a wife that's expecting ... a little daughter in early January, so for Darlington he'll be full of pride and he'll play with a little more motivation. If he does that and he builds on what he did this year, goodness... the league is in for a show. And with Darlington I think he is one of the most underrated players and personally -- and I'm backing Caleb up on this one as well -- he's a special, special player. We've signed him to a long long-term contract. He's on the longest contract in our club at the moment and he's a player that we're trying to build around in many ways. When you have Valeri and Nagbe, they're great pieces to build around and also great, great people.

Yeah, I do not think that we would be the team we are if Diego (Chara) wasn't on the team. His work ethic, his commitment, his level of professionalism, his ability to go about doing his job, and repeat it the next day, and then repeat it again... I think he's probably one of our most consistent players... Diego Chara just goes about his job, gets the job done, goes home, comes back and does it again. For players like that, where they don't take a lot of time or a lot of effort to manage off the field, and they turn up and they give the club so much, I can only speak volumes about him as a player and a person.

Interesting (and good!) to hear that Nagbe is on a long-term contract. Not a surprise, but good to know that both the team and Nagbe want this to be a long-term relationship. He may go to Europe someday in the future, but when he does Portland is likely to receive some compensation since he will be under contract.


Gavin then spoke about some other offseason moves:

It's a difficult time, to be honest. You're dealing with players and contract situations coming into next year, and every single player that's been in our squad has contributed, and you're having to make some difficult decisions. A lot of the time it's based around the player, their success that they've had or maybe haven't had this season, and also their budget number going into the following season, and can they remain injury free and what's the likelihood of that... There's some difficult decisions, there's a lot of difficult meetings in the offseason and you'll see an announcement next week about a couple of players we've waived, and some that we're trying to renegotiate with. That won't be the end of it. You'll see a few more that happen sporadically over the offseason.

No real surprises there, and the only point of note is that we will get an announcement next week about 2 players leaving the team. I wonder if that will be related to the Re-Entry draft, which is rumored to be on December 13 (it hasn't been announced yet, but it was the Friday after the MLS Cup final last year). The comments specifically about injury and concern for their health in 2014 could apply to Silvestre, Horst, Piquionne, and/or DTG.

Alright guys, I don't believe I have to say this but, just in case, please do not submit anything racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise not appropriate for even the younger Timbers fans.

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