Two players went on loan during the 2012 season: Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Bright Dike. While Dike is out for a few more months due to injury, and Jean-Baptiste is still very much developing, it would be difficult to argue that the loan spell wasn't positive for both players. Dike, in particular, came back to the Portland Timbers with quite the chip on his shoulder. It's a shame an injury took him out of the equation for the starting striker spot this year.
But since both Jean-Baptiste and Dike went last year as well as the fact that one is very much involved with the first team and the other won't be available to play until later this year, the question remains: who will be sent out on loan this year? Obviously there are a number of criteria to consider when trying to figure out who would benefit the most:
- Youth, but not too young
- First team readiness
Youth players should, obviously, take precedent as they have the least development, most potential, and are likely not quite ready to play on the first team. That said, there's a certain age that some players are where they should probably continue at their work with the current Portland Timbers coaching staff. Mobi Fehr, for example, at 18 years old would probably due well to stick around and learn from his club's coaches and his fellow players before jetting off on loan. Sebastian Rincon is another player, though his time with the team already leaves the door open.
Using these four criteria here are my choices in no particular order:
While the Timbers' right back situation has certainly improved since last year, depth is still a matter of concern. In Kawulok, they have a younger right back who is simply not getting the time he needs on the field to be properly developed. Ryan Miller is solid right back, but one injury to him and we could see Ben Zemanski taking over the permanent position, something I'm not quite comfortable with yet. A strong candidate in Kawulok would make me feel much better about the position overall.
Makes sense, right? Another SuperDraft product who has been impressive in the pre-season but doesn't appear to be getting many minutes outside of that. As with Jean-Baptiste last year, Tucker-Gangnes would benefit from some first team experience regardless of the opponent, especially since he's coming right from college. He needs minutes in a professional environment, playing against professionals.
Another young forward, and a Timbers homegrown player prospect. This means that the Timbers should have extra incentive to develop him into the best player possible. Unfortunately, Richards is still very much out of the picture and his return is still a ways away. He might be a better prospect for loan in 2014 if he's healthy but not getting regular starting minutes.
Honestly, I don't know much about Evans. He's another homegrown product like Richards so that's an important thing to note. Previously, though he was part of the Timbers U-23 squad and, as such, he should be very familiar with the Timbers organization. A loan deal out could make him into a very viable midfielder for the future.
Probably the most surprising pick here. Alhassan needs to go on loan. I know he has a huge amount of talent and that he is certainly first team capable now, but I think spending a few months away from the Timbers and MLS would work wonders for not only his confidence, but also his humility. Far too often we see Alhassan attempting some magic footwork only to watch it blow up in his face. Playing in a lower division, but still getting meaningful minutes, could help him figure out what works and what doesn't work which he can then take back to MLS.
So there you have it. My five choices for loans. I already mentioned this above, but I left Mobi Fehr and Sebastian Rincon off the list because both are still teenagers. While they could benefit from it (Jean-Baptiste was only 19 when he went) I think at their age development under Timbers coaches and with the reserve squad would work better.
Who do you think should go on loan this year? Where would they go?