What About Frederic Piquionne?

The Portland Timbers are screaming it, crying it out in the night, and flying banners through the air with the same desperate message: We need a target forward.

All due respect, a team that has Maxi Urruti on the field is basically playing with ten men.

Besides Urruti's incredible lack of intelligence with his running and positional play, his inability to get involved in the game, his problems with the ball at his feet, and his well-worn flopping routine, the Argentine is too small. He has no physical presence.

To give Urruti his due, he comes up with a good moment once every few games. But one good moment - the goal against Seattle - in six games is a recipe for disaster from your only forward.

On a team like the Timbers which has small players in almost every position, the lone target forward needs to be able to hold the ball up, to link play with the midfield, and win headers everywhere on the field to make crosses worth the time they take off the clock.

Like him or not, Urruti can't do any of those things.

Caleb Porter likes Urruti. He still can't do any of those required things.

Yes of course, Rodney Wallace is missed from last year's Timbers team. He brought a variation to the offense with direct wide play, and he freed up space for the Diego Valeris and Darlington Nagbes to work their magic.

But part of the reason Wallace was so effective was that there was a true target forward to play with.

For the majority of last year, that guy was Ryan Johnson.

He was nothing special, but Johnson was a big body who had a good nose for goal and served comfortably in his role as a target player.

But Johnson left for China, and from the first day of preseason camp, Porter made it clear that Urruti was his number nine for 2014.

Thing is, Urruti didn't win that starting job or vote of confidence last year. The Timbers settled into a streak of gutty 1-0 wins around the time Urruti was acquired for Bright Dike, and Urruti played a role that gave him immidiate good will.

But when the goals started flowing at the very end of the year and in the playoffs, Urruti was hurt. It was a combination of Johnson, Jose Valencia, and (you knew we'd get here eventually), Frederic Piquionne.

In Urruti's ten starts, the Timbers have 11 goals - discounting the game against Seattle. That average of 1.11 goals per game is well below the Timbers' 2013 season average, which was near two.

Urutti's own tally of two goals and zero assists in eleven games with Portland does nothing to debunk his failure of the eye test. Urruti's game is weak, and his stats back that up.

Why then, does Caleb Porter show such faith in him? One guess is that Porter doesn't think he has another option.

In the one game this year that Urruti was dropped for - at Colorado - he played Gaston Fernandez as a false nine. The experiment was a total failure. The offense was anemic, and Fernandez invisible.

Thing is, Portland have Frederic Piquionne sitting on the bench.

In case you've forgotten, since it's been a long while since we've heard from the #9, let's take a look at Piquionne's resume.

No, not the one that says he has played ten years in France's Ligue Un, five in Britain's Premier League, in the Champions League, and for the French national team, because the here and now is where the issue is.

Last season, Piquionne scored twice (seven, if you count the US Open Cup) - both headed goals - and tallied five big assists, despite making over 2/3s of his appearances as a substitute. He was often used late in games to defend set pieces - another area the Timbers need help with - and he was clearly the Timbers' most physically imposing and talented center forward.

At this point in their MLS careers, Urruti and Piquionne have played almost the same number of minutes, but Piquionne has almost double the number of shots and shots on goal that the Argentine has. There is one category that Urruti has Piquionne beat: Offsides.

While there's no denying that Piquionne - now in his mid-30s - has lost a step, there's also no denying that he checks all the boxes of what the Timbers are lacking from the forward position. Piquionne's game isn't predicated on speed anyway - it's about heading the ball, holding the ball up, and being in the right areas of the field.

Piquionne isn't washed up. And the Timbers don't think he is either.

Why else would they have signed him to a deal paying almost $150,000 for the 2014 season, putting the striker in the middle of the wage charts? Why else would Porter have started him in the biggest game of the year, the home playoff leg against Real Salt Lake?

The Timbers had a chance in that game for about 25 minutes. They were getting chances and looking good. But then Piquionne got hurt, and Urruti replaced him. RSL scored soon after, and the Timbers never threatened again.

So what happened? Why is Piquionne barely being used as a substitute this year? In six games, Piquionne has played only thirteen minutes. That's criminal.

Either Piquionne is in the dog-house - pretty unlikely, given his temperament - or Porter's ego is getting in the way.

Urruti is his guy. Gavin Wilkinson's too. And you have to wonder when Wilkinson goes on TV just days after the end of the season and says starting forward Ryan Johnson won't be coming back to the team because he's looking overseas.

While that may be true, Johnson didn't sign on in China for almost four months, and the Timbers never replaced him in that time.

It just makes you wonder.

The Timbers have been giving up on experience throughout the last offseason, and this regular season. Mikael Silvestre - who won everything there is to win in Europe and was one of the top center-backs in the league last season when healthy - was released.

Jack Jewsbury has been benched for 19 year old Alvas Powell, who couldn't stay in front of the mail carrier on his daily route. It's no wonder there are problems on defense.

Piquionne, 35. Urruti, 23. Is that what the Timbers are seeing here? I'm trying to figure it out. The only thing Urruti does well is run, and that's about the only thing Piquionne doesn't do well.

The Timbers need someone with Frederic Piquionne's skill-set, size, and experience. So why don't they just play Frederic Piquionne?

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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