Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Bright Dike's ACL injury was a major blow to not only Dike himself, but also the Portland Timbers.
Bright Dike had a great season last year, followed by a great pre-season this year. Everything pointed to him having a banner year in 2013. Unfortunately, an injury against the Seattle Sounders last week was eventually revealed to be a torn ACL, an injury you can't just shake off and return to duty a couple weeks later. This means that Dike is out for at least 6 months, likely longer, according to Caleb Porter.
But this isn't bad news for everybody. With Dike sidelined for the forseeable future, it's now up to the remaining forwards to make a name for themselves. Each one of them has a whole lot to prove after less than stellar 2012 seasons:
2012 didn't exactly start off well for the (sort of) Portland native. After beginning last year with the Philadelphia Union, he remained relatively sidelined throughout Piotr Nowak's remaining months. Then, in a rather shocking trade, the Portland Timbers dealt Jorge Perlaza to the Union in exchange for Mwanga. There was a lot of excitement surrounding the young striker, but he's shown little inclination to step up to the kind of form we all expected since his arrival.
In 2013, however, he has that chance to take over the forward position. In 2010, at the age of 19, he managed to score 7 goals. That's a decent number for such a young striker and, even today, it would put him near the top for Portland Timbers strikers (that's kind of depressing). We all saw what kind of striker Mwanga can be during last year's away game against the San Jose Earthquakes, but he just hasn't shown the consistency yet.
Another player who had a rough 2012 and another former Oregon State University player, Ryan Johnson should definitely be out there to prove something to the league and the Timbers' fans. With 10 goals for Toronto FC in 43 games across the 2011-2012 season, Johnson is decent up top and clearly has the skills necessary to score in this league.
Looking ahead to 2013 though, it wouldn't be entirely inconceivable to see that he'll naturally become the first choice. In fact, he seemed like the first choice of Caleb Porter even before Bright Dike was injured, for some reason. Unfortunately, his first few pre-season games weren't entirely impressive. He'll need to show more than that in the upcoming weeks if he's thinking he'll be a natural starter on this team.
Yet another rough 2012 season (starting to see a trend?) for this forward, Jose Adolfo Valencia was out for pretty much the entirety of 2012 after the Portland Timbers discovered very early on into his contract that he needed knee surgery. This, unfortunately, caused the player to be sidelined when he really needed to be developed and mentored into the Portland Timbers.
The good news here is that Valencia, unlike Mwanga and Johnson, has thoroughly impressed during his preseason outings. It might be a little early to be crowning an automatic starter here, but if Valencia can keep with the kind of creative striking he was pulling off in Arizona, I have a hard time imagining any of the other forwards catching up.
And finally we have Sebastian Rincon. Unlike the others Rincon didn't necessarily have a terrible 2012, just an uneventful one. The young Colombian player got 0 minutes with the first team last year and will probably see few minutes in 2013 as well, barring some major injuries.
Still, at only 18 years old, not much is expected of him just yet. If Rincon can somehow make a good impression during this preseason and make some noise during limited minutes or US Open Cup games this season, he could find himself thrust into a much more prominent position on the team.
And then there's Nagbe...
He just needs to be more consistent. Two years is about all you will get in MLS to make an impression. The Timbers are giving him a third under his former college coach. If he can't excel under those conditions, either as a forward or midfielder, then he likely won't be around in 2014.
One of these players has to step up and be the striker for the Portland Timbers. After a rough 2012 for each one of them, it's time to see if the Timbers' investment in each of them was worth it.
Who do you think will step up in 2012? Or do you think the Timbers should be actively searching for a new forward?