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Analyzing the Timbers' Current Attacking Options

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Alrighty then, so bare with me on this one. As you no doubt know our own Portland Timbers have been actively signing players left and right in the lead up to our first season in MLS. However, most of those signings have been defenders and midfielders, but what about our current attacking options? Well, suffice it to say, were we to take the field today, we might be in a bit of trouble.

Not to say I'm a pessimist, of course, I'm just realistic.

Bright Dike

I like Bright Dike, I thought he played very well for us in 2010 and I believe he will grow into a fantastic MLS quality player, possibly more depending on his own personal skills and attitude toward building his game. Still, as one of only two of our current full time attacking options, he doesn't make for a good option to have immediately. Maybe after a year or two in MLS, but certainly not right away.

Dike's style is what I would consider to be similar to Jozy Altidore's. He's a big, attacking midfielder who can really push his way around defenders if need be. My only worry is in his technical ability. Does he have what it takes to get around Danny Califf, Todd Dunivant, or any of the league's best defenders? I'm not quite so sure.

Also, It certainly doesn't give me hope that he was released by the Columbus Crew without ever even making the squad, granted the Crew in early 2010 was a fairly deep.

Still, I do believe in Dike -- he did score 10 times for us in 2010, after all -- and I believe he has the willingness to up his game and could prove to be a huge asset for us soon, just not right away. If we are able to get a really strong, qualified striker to help guide Dike in his abilities we could possibly be breeding the next Altidore, in my opinion at least.

Eddie Johnson

No not that Eddie Johnson. Still, being one of the first four players signed by the Timbers MLS side was a very intriguing move. Once announced, even from my own home I could hear the murmurings and whispers of "Who?" and "Where did he come from?" ringing through the Timbers news front and forums.

While he didn't turn out to be the Eddie Johnson most US soccer fans know of, I'd say he's still an interesting prospect having trained with Machester United's youth academy when he was younger. Of course, going from a Manchester United youth prospect to a USSD 2 side in Austin isn't exactly a glamorous transfer. Needless to say, there were probably a few speedbumps in his career.

Being that, Eddie was the second leading goal scorer for the USSF D2 in 2010 -- behind our own Ryan Pore -- which means his ability to get balls in the net is definitely still alive and kicking. Also, after watching a couple highlights of his former Aztex games, I generally came away impressed with his positioning in front. He seemed adept in his ability to be in the right place at the right time, even if his former team mates would squander his position.

My singular worry about Eddie is that he's not that young. Unlike with Dike, who is fairly young (at only 23) Eddie is 26. The common theory is that most players, specifically strikers, hit their peak between 28-30, with some obvious exceptions. So it does leave me pondering his ability to up his game in a league that is, obviously, more challenging than the D2 he is coming from.

Then again, the same could be said for our own Ryan Pore...

Ryan Pore

Good ol' Ryan. While not technically a forward, I'd say given his performace last season he is currently our strongest attacking prospect. Which is a great thing as he is a great player. I've enjoyed his performances since he arrived in Portland and I believe his true ability really shined last year when he was not only our MVP, but also the league's MVP.

Given my argument against Eddie Johnson, you are probably wondering why I wouldn't have the same things to say about Ryan Pore (who is actually older than Eddie at 27). Honestly, I can't give you a solid answer on that, other than he is a known quantity. We've watched him play for the last couple seasons and I feel like he is going to be a very solid player for us moving forward. Will he be as adept at scoring goals and breaking down backlines next season as he was in 2010? I hope so, but I can't say for certain.

I do know that he didn't fare as well in Kansas City, only notching them a single assist in 5 starts (14 matches). Still, I don't believe he is the same player as he was back then. While I don't know empirically how well he'll manage next season, I have faith in his abilities and I honestly believe that, right now with our current 15 player roster, he is our best attacking option.

Peter Lowry

Finally, we have Peter Lowry, our recent pick up from Chicago. While he's not an dedicated forward, he is an attacking midfielder and an exciting prospect to say the least. Just check out his goal against Columbus last season... impressive stuff.

But aside from that what do we know about him? He's fairly young at only 25 years old. He started in 12 of Chicago's games last season, although Chicago didn't fair very well overall.

As somebody who didn't follow Chicago's team very much last season, I can't dish out too many details or opinions on him. All I can say is that I believe the talent is there, especially if he were paired up next to Pore in the midfield. While I'm worried the two might overlap a bit, I'm excited to see, when teamed up, if they're able to connect with the forwards and make that magic happen that we expect out of our midfield.

The Rest

Aside from these players, we don't have many attacking options. Kalif Alhassan will be important going forward, but then he's only been with the team since August. I didn't see enough of him play to get an accurate judgment on his abilities. Marcelin and Moffat are two other midfielders we'll have to keep an eye on.

None of these players are direct attacking options, however, so their impact in that area will probably be limited to a few assists.

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And that's all I've got so far. As you can see, I'm taking a wary/guarded approach to our current forwards, but overall I'm feeling optimistic. We still have 15 players to sign, a SuperDraft to manage, and an International Transfer market to trade for players to help make us an impact up top. It's through these avenues that I'm hoping we'll secure that special forward who will lead our younger, less experienced players.... a Brian Ching, Schelotto, Buddle, if you will.