After taking a day to reflect on the game against Chivas USA, I have noticed a trend among our current "starter-caliber" strikers: They are all specialized. This doesn't mean they're all bad (or good), but it does mean that each individual striker requires a unique gameplan from the coaches and the team. If nothing else, it makes it very interesting for us fans. Here's my breakdown on what each striker brings above the rest:
The Jamaican forward is probably our go-to guy for Porter at the moment. Apart from Piquionne, he's the only one who ever started when everyone was healthy, and even then Freddy and Ryan split the starting time between them.
What Johnson has unique to him is a very adept ability when pressed out wide, and the unique quality of being a left-footed striker on Portland. Johnson's best in one of two areas: Attacking set pieces, and when teammates are running into the box. The first is obvious--sometimes he can jump really well. The second, not so much. Johnson can make cutting runs diagonally from the center towards the left corner, and pick up a ball without needing to cut back towards goal. He's great at taking the ball into the corner and using his left foot to cross the ball into the waiting (albeit diminutive) midfield.
However, what he cannot seem to do is score 1-on-1. At least not since preseason. Whether its pressure, self-doubt, or something else, he doesn't seem to know how to chip the ball over or curve the ball around the keeper. His unfortunate tendency to have hot/cold streaks is another side-effect. He had a few really good games in August. Hopefully that doesn't turn off if he starts again for Portland.
Piquionne isn't of exceptional height, but he's of exceptional vertical ability. As I said above, when the squad was healthy, Piquionne was the only one to compete for the starting spot with Ryan Johnson, and was used in games where his abilities were needed, or because he had just scored 4 goals against a minor-league team.
Don't get me wrong, I love Piquionne. However, 1 goal in MLS for a "highly respected BPL striker" -- as Christian Miles so lovingly points out so often -- isn't a great record. What is, though, is his capability to play good balls and indirect-assists, plus his jumping and heading. Without Piquionne, Portland looks miserable on defensive set-pieces, and less-threatening on most offensive set-pieces (although Ryan Johnson's gotten really good at that respect lately). Piquionne is the one striker Portland has that's capable of utilizing the Route-One style of play. He can use his head to flick the ball onto players running past the defense, a skill currently unique to him on the roster.
As I said, though, his goal-scoring rate isn't too great. At the same time, his defending almost makes up for it.
Or as Christian Miles calls him, "'El Trencito!' Man that's fun to say!" Valencia's a good, solid, young player with a promising amount of potential. But as Portland's seen in the past with players like Marcelin, Perlaza, and Mwanga, the "P-word" only gets you so far. But in my opinion, Valencia has something different about him than our other potential-based players we've cut: he is starting to really shine.
Valencia is great at hold-up play in the box, using his strength and his size to keep defenders away from the ball until a teammate makes himself available. The last two Valeri goals, as well as the Johnson goal against Toronto, were all because of Valencia. He's able to get into very good positions, and sometimes does something that MLS centerbacks have trouble comprehending: he doesn't go straight for the shot. Instead, he lays it off for teammates who have much better opportunities. So far, that's proven pretty successful, when he doesn't try to take it himself.
The bad, consequently, is how abhorrent he is when he DOES try to take it himself, Vancouver's wondergoal notwithstanding. He's had a few close misses, sure, but he's also had a few really greedy moments and misses. It's youth mistakes like that that hurt Valencia's chances of truly breaking into the Starting XI.
He's big, he plays with heart, and he can wrestle his way th-
Oh yeah, we traded him...
...for this guy! Now, I'll admit, I don't have a lot of data on this guy. Definitely not more than you guys have, unless you spent a LOT of time watching Argentine football, but I doubt you have.
From what I've seen, he's an averagely-tall striker who appears to have "Boyd-syndrome." That's not necessarily a bad thing, just something I've got personal bad memories with; players who are only capable of turning perfect crosses and rebounds ("fox-in-the-box" poacher-type players) always scare me.
However, his game against Chivas USA highly counters that idea. He's shown he's got a much-higher work rate than the Scotsman did, and that seemed to be the general distaste for Boyd. Plus, he's young and moldable. If Porter can turn him into a truly-proper player for the style we run, I can easily see him linking well with the likes of Chara, Valeri, and Nagbe and turning into a weapon.
The downsides: He's completely unproven in the MLS, as well as he's still young and could get "vet-savvy'd" into moves like Andrew Jean-Baptiste does. Also, what is up with the
mullet err, mohawk err, hairstyle he has?
Portland's got itself into a situation that could be seen as enviable or terrible, depending on who you ask. Having 4 strikers could be a great thing. Having 4 different strikers could be a horrible thing. It really comes down to how well we can implement the one we go with to start, and how well we can adjust to the player we bring on to substitute him.
Now personally, I prefer Piquionne for the reasons I listed. However, I really wouldn't mind seeing any of them as long as it pays off. Then again, same could be said for anyone.