On February 5th, Bright Dike went down with a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus after an unlucky collision with Seattle's Josh Ford. Now, just five months later, he is back on the training pitch and working his way toward game fitness.
For the time being Dike is taking part in limited practices, a situation he expects to last several weeks, before getting back to full contact and preparing to play with the rest of the team.
It has been a long time that I've been waiting for this, been waiting to get into practice.
Dike is no stranger to the rehab process. On February 4, 2011, two years and one day before destroying his knee against the Sounders, Dike ruptured his Achilles' tendon in another preseason friendly, this one against the Ventura County Fusion.
As Dike made his way back into the team John Spencer praised his abilities and his effort to get back on the pitch before welcoming him back.
He's a big, big strong boy. I don't think I've seen anybody strike the ball as hard as he does in my whole time in the game. So we feel he definitely has a bright future here, no pun intended.
Now, two years later, Dike is again being praised for his effort and his drive to get back on the pitch. Team owner Merritt Paulson even tweeted about Dike's quick recovery from a devastating injury.
Amazing to see @bbright19 out with the team for training today...either amazing healer or ridiculously hard worker. I am going w latter.— Merritt Paulson (@MerrittPaulson) July 16, 2013
All that effort off the field to get back to training is linked to the qualities that Dike brings on the field.
Last season, as the Timbers moved away from John Spencer's "three touches and you're at the opponent's goal" method of play and into Gavin Wilkinson's necessarily crude approximation of what some call "Porterball", Dike's style of play started to shine.
Dike is, as many have said, built like a linebacker. He goes fast and he carries a lot of momentum. If you do not get out of his way then some of that momentum will be transferred into you, something that numerous defenders have learned over the course of Dike's career.
That is often the most emphasized part of Dike's game, it even spawned the term "to Dike someone" (to injure someone unintentionally because of their proximity to you), but it is not the only thing that the Timbers' forward brings to the table.
Caleb Porter has acknowledged the physical side of Dike's play, noting after practice on Tuesday that Dike is "a guy that is definitely going to run people over."
Still, the team see's Dike as the type of number nine forward that can fit into the Timbers' high pressure style of play. Just like Ryan Johnson and Frederic Piquionne have many similarities in the way they approach the game, so does Dike. However, it is the slight difference between the players that can give the Timbers a different look and can force teams to adjust to take them on.
Caleb Porter laid out some of those difference between the team's big strikers:
Piquionne is a little bit more of a linking, hold the ball up, type number nine. Pretty clever and technical. Ryan, I think, is more hard running, physical, pressing, and he can still link. Piquionne probably doesn't run guys over as much as Ryan Johnson does, he won't press quite as hard. Ryan Johnson doesn't look to come and link quite as much as Piquionne...
Bright has a little bit more pace than both of them, a little bit more power than both of them. Not a guy that we are going to play through a ton, but a guy that is going to run the channels a bit more.
While it will be around a month before we see Bright Dike deploying his take on the number nine position up top for even the Timbers reserves, his potential return could open up all sorts of possibilities for the team.
It is too early to be sure that Dike has not lost a step after suffering his second major injury in three years, but he is back and looking fit. With the help of Sean McAuley's constant yelling Dike has already shaken off some of the rust in his first two days of practice.
As Caleb Porter says, it has been a long road for Dike, but he is healed up and ready to continue putting the work in to get back into the game.
I think a lot of the things that I'm doing right now will actually be better for me, not just the knee strength, but mobility-wise... Whatever they ask from me I am all ears and ready to go.