With only three pre-season games left before the Timbers open their 2012 season we here at Stumptown Footy took a great fan idea and turned out our depth chart for the upcoming season. Each of us took a stab at what we thought the Timbers depth chart might look like.
We did it by position and generally had a 4-4-2 formation as our default formation. Find out more after the jump.
Keepers: Perkins, Gleeson, Bendik
No question at all who the Timbers' first team keeper is. Troy Perkins was a game saver again and again last year, with excellent leadership and some miraculous stops. Jake Gleeson has to be considered the second keeper, but his skill and Joe Bendik's are at very similar levels. Gleeson's performance in relief of injured Perkins and Adin Brown last year, and the time he put in on the reserve squad should give him the team's second billing.
CBs: Brunner, Futty, Horst, Mosquera, Jean-Baptiste.
In my opinion, Eric Brunner and Futty Danso have won back their places in the starting lineup in spite of increased competition at the center back position, and I think that's terrific. Hanyer Mosquera and Jean-Baptiste follow in order behind them, as Mosquera has not quite gotten up to speed on the style of play in MLS. Once David Horst is match fit again, which may not be for another couple of months, I believe he'll be slotted in behind Futty, as long as the two starters remain healthy and effective. Later on in the season we may see Mosquera move up in the pecking order, but I think it would take an injury for him to crack the starting XI. Still, given how many injuries the CBs suffered in 2011, that might become a likely scenario.
RB: Purdy, Palmer, Kawulok
Call me crazy, I might be alone in this, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the coaching staff likes what Steve Purdy brings in size and athletic ability. They used Lovel Palmer in 2011 to plug a hole while they worked on some key parts of Purdy's game, but Palmer was never the right back they wanted for the long term -- I think Purdy's their man. Meanwhile, Ryan Kawulok appears to be a more long term project. It's possible we may even see Freddie Braun or Jack Jewsbury in the RB position before we see Kawulok.
LB: Wallace, Chabala, Taylor
Similar to my suspicions about Palmer, I think Spenny wants to give Rodney Wallace another go at the left back position. His speed and range exceed everyone else on the team, and as long as he can command more leadership with his teammate on the flank -- something he has shown improvement on this preseason -- he will be the Timbers' starting LB in 2012. Mike Chabala follows closely behind should anything go wrong with Wallace's game, but I also have a feeling the coaching staff will try to work Chris Taylor into the first team this season.
CDM: Jewsbury, Marcelin, Braun, Alexander, Chara
The starting lineup on 3/12 will feature Jack Jewsbury once again. Jewsbury is a rock in the center of the pitch and shows excellent leadership on defense. James Marcelin is probably a better fit as a defensive mid than Jewsbury, but the Captain's leadership on the pitch trumps Marcelin's superior skill for now. Braun would be next in line after him, with Alexander or Chara being switched out of their primary positions in case of emergency.
CAM: Chara, Nagbe, Alexander, Songo'o, Braun, Rincon
While he is perhaps a more defensive-minded player, Chara fits in well with Spencer's direct approach to the attack, with his vision of the field in transition and his quick decision-making ability. If Chara is out with an injury or, even more likely, a suspension, I think we'll see Nagbe if he isn't already a starting striker by that point. Otherwise, Alexander or Songo'o would likely be switched out of their primary positions to fill the attacking midfielder role. Sadly, I haven't seen enough of Sebastian Rincon to have any idea where he would fall in the depth chart.
RM: Alexander, Songo'o, Alhassan, Zizzo, Nagbe, Palmer, Renken
My 3/12 prediction: Eric Alexander will start at right wing. He is strong on both offense and defense and has the physical attributes that Spenny seems to like, especially as paired with Songo'o on the other flank. Kalif Alhassan is very close behind him, though, and once Sal Zizzo is match fit he'll have another close contender breathing down his neck. I haven't seen enough of Charles Renken to really know where he's going to end up, but I imagine they'll take their time with him.
LM: Songo'o, Alhassan, Nagbe, Wallace, Chabala
I think Songo'o will start on 3/12 opposite Alexander. Again, the competition at these wing positions is fierce, and I think the Timbers will see many, many different combinations as the season goes on -- Alexander/Songo'o, Songo'o/Alhassan, Zizzo/Nagbe, Alexander/Wallace, etc. It's going to be fun to watch.
Forwards: Boyd, Perlaza, Nagbe, Dike, Richards
The striker position is another place where Timbers fans will see some different combinations, but on 3/12 it's going to be Boyd/Perlaza. Now, Darlington Nagbe fans will take issue with that, but I think leaving Nagbe out of the starting XI on day one will light a fire under him. Remember the last time Nagbe had a fire lit under him? Yeah, that was fun.
Besides, early in the season I think we'll see Spenny subbing for both strikers, especially if Boyd is somewhat less than match fit by March 12. Look for both Nagbe and Dike to log plenty of minutes at striker early on in the season, and if they prove potent enough, look for Nagbe to start ahead of Perlaza. Boyd would have to be a serious disappointment for Dike to start in his place, but it's not completely impossible. Richards looks great so far, but I think he'll be rocking the reserves. I'm leaving Johnson and Valencia off the depth chart.
Keepers: Perkins, Gleeson, Bednik
Easy-peasy. No question that Perkins will continue to be our starting keeper. The question comes in whether Gleeson or Bendik gets the second position. We know Gleeson and we know what h's capable of. Bendik is a variable and, as such, I've placed him third. That could change though.
CB: Brunner, Mosquera, Horst, Futty, Baptiste and Kawulok,
Brunner and Mosquera are the starting centerbacks I think. While it's difficult to judge Mosquera right away, I believe the FO knew they had a hole that needed to get filled and they'd be reluctant to go with Futty for the entire season.
RB:Palmer, Purdy, Kawulok
Difficult to judge between Purdy and Palmer. Overall, however, I thin I preferred Palmer last year over Purdy. Whether that remains this year, though, is up in the air. I have no pertinent info on Kawulok's skill in a league game...
LB: Chabala, Wallace, Taylor
Despite falling off a bit late last year, I'd still rank Chabala as a better LB than Wallace. Granted he isn't as fast, but his head and though process are better which lead him to being a more effective defender and winger, in my opinion.
CM: Chara, Jewsbury, Marcelin, Alexander, Braun and Nagbe.
No question. This section will be lead by Chara and Jewsbury once again. Alexander could be a good sub in as well as Marcelin but I would be surprised if either started over Chara or Cap'n Jack.
RM: Nagbe, Alhassan, Alexander, Zizzo, Renken
Nagbe, easily. He wants to be a striker but we know him as a right midfielder. Songo'o could play here as well, but I'm not sure. Zizzo has the speed dominance but he fails to pick his head up enough. Renken is a huge variable and I'm excited to see how he turned out.
LM: Songo'o, Nagbe and Wallace
Alhassan or Songo'o. Alhassan is a very skilled dribbler and gets his way through the backline but SOngo'o I feel has the better vision. t'll be interesting to see how it plays out.
Forward: Boyd, Perlaza, Nagbe, Dike, Richards,
Boyd and Perlaza. No question about it. With Eddie Johnson out on another injury I can't see Richards or Dike stepping up. Nagbe could, but I have a feeling he's destined for that right middle spot once again.
Keepers- Perkins, Gleeson, Bendick
While all three keepers have looked good (very good at times) in practice this year, I have not seen anything that would make me think that Troy Perkins would be unseated as the team's starter. Who will be on the bench backing him up remains up in the air, as both Joe Bendick and Jake Gleeson have shown themselves to be talented young keepers.
LB-Wallace, Chabala, Horst (inj), Taylor
Rodney Wallace is still looking to have a true break out year, but his late season appearances last season and his performance for the Costa Rican national team have him at the front of the pack in my eyes. Mike Chabala is a dependable back up who will be ready to step in if Wallace stumbles.
RB-Palmer (inj), Purdy, Kowaluk, Braun
Although Lovel Palmer is currently injured I still see him as the club's best right back, he will just have to work his way back to fitness by the beginning of the season. Steve Purdy and Ryan Kowaluk, both converted central defenders, have very similar qualities to their game. From what I have seen in practice, Kowaluk is a superior passer who seems to really enjoy getting forward on offense, but Purdy's national team experience gives him the edge.
CB-Brunner, Mosquera, Futty, Horst (inj), Jean-Baptiste, Purdy, Kowaluk, Marcelin
Eric Brunner is a lock here. He is the heart of the defense and has looked quite good so far in preseason. Futty Danso and Hanyer Mosquera are both solid defenders who could step in and start but Mosquera looks just a little more ready to take on or dish out some physical play, something that the Timbers lacked at times last season. David Horst, when he returns from injury a couple months into the season, will challenge for a spot on the bench, but barring some injuries and suspensions will have a difficult time cracking the starting line up.
CDM-Jewsbury, Marcelin, Chara, Braun
Jack Jewsbury, the team Captain, is the best bet to play as the more defensive minded of the Timbers' midfield pairing. Although he will likely contribute fewer goals than he did last year, Jewsbury will still be able to crash the box and put in the occasional ball. Diego Chara, although excellent at defense on the ground, lacks the height and ability in the air to play effectively as a dedicated defensive midfielder and will better serve the team playing box to box like he did near the end of last season. James Marcelin has looked good during the preseason and will certainly see some minutes this year, but he has not improved enough to take over a starting position.
LM-Songo'o, Nagbe (inj), Alhassan, Wallace, Zizzo (inj), Chabala
Since joining the team, Franck Songo'o has looked a little bit better with each practice. His passing and possession are excellent and his ability to take the ball off of defenders has paid dividends in several preseason games already. Kalif Alhassan was both awe-inspiring and completely frustrating in turns last season and he does not look to have changed much in the off season. Alhassan will likely be a late game substitute to bring a spark to the side, but it is hard to imagine him getting the start over Songo'o.
RM-Nagbe (inj), Alexander, Zizzo (inj), Alhassan, Renken
Darlington Nagbe, when he recovers from his injury, could line up at any number of positions but as of now the right side of the midfield is the most likely. However, Eric Alexander has shown well so far this year and could be returning to the form that saw him called up to the United States national team.
CM-Chara, Jewsbury, Alexander, Marcelin, Braun
Diego Chara can do everything and is the best bet to start in the position that requires you do everything. Should he be unable to play expect to see either Jewbury pushed forward and Marcelin filling in behind him or Alexander brought in off of the wing.
F-Boyd, Perlaza, Nagbe (inj), Dike, Richards, Rincon
Kris Boyd is a striker in his prime and he scores goals. Alongside him should be Jorge Perlaza who, although he struggled with injury last year, will be able to create space for Boyd as well as use his speed to create a few chances for himself as well. Darlington Nagbe suffers here as he would be excellent in any number of positions but has not yet excelled at any.
What to do with Nagbe? I don't really think he is the best option at any given position right now, but he is the second best at a number. Hopefully he can provide depth on the bench and come in to provide a late game boost as a super-sub.
Keepers: Perkins, Gleeson, Bendick
This is probably the easiest position as Perkins has continued to look great. The only question is if at some point in the season Bendick overtakes Gleeson for the back-up spot.
CB: Brunner, Futty, Mosquera, Horst, Jean-Baptiste, Kawulok, Purdy
I really like Mosquera and everything he brings to the team and think he will be a regular starter by the end of the year but just can't put him ahead of Futty. Kawulok is looking more and more like a RB rather than a CB and Jean-Baptiste is showing flashes as to why we picked him ahead of other defenders.
RB: Palmer, Purdy, Kawulok
What a difference one year makes. RB was a position at the start of last year that was the weakest but this year with Palmer here all year and Purdy putting pressure on him for the starting job the position is looking a lot better. Kawulok is also showing why he was his leagues Defender of the year.
LB: Chabala, Wallace, Taylor
I think this race is a lot closer than it was as Wallace is showing a lot more at this position then he did last year. If Spenny pairs Wallace with a more defensive minded wing, like Alexander, Wallace will get more starts. Chabala however was one of the only guys who lit a fire under Alhassan or Nagbe when they were not getting back defensively and one of the only ones who would get in the face of another player after a hard tackle which Portland needs more of.
CDM: Jewsbury, Marcelin, Alexander
Spenny has said Jewsbury is his man as long as he is the coach. The worrisome part about that is when does Spenny make the switch to Marcelin who was a beast in LA and seems to be clicking on all cylinders.
CM: Chara, Alexander, Braun, Nagbe
There is no question Chara is the undisputed starter at CM, however who is next in line is a big question. There will be a point where Chara will not be in the line-up and how Spenny handles this will be interesting.
RM: Nagbe, Alexander, Renken, Zizzo, Rincon
Nagbe is a wing player for now because the Timbers have too many forwards and need an attacking wing who can control the ball. If Nagbe is unable to go Alexander fits that mold nicely. Zizzo, unfortunately for him, got injured at the wrong time and unless he improves in certain areas will only be used as a late speedy sub, if at all. Rincon is young and will become a great player but needs to spend time with the reserves.
LM: Songo'o, Alhassan, Nagbe, Wallace, Richards
This is Songo'o's position as long as he is healthy and not suspended. Alhassan really needs to be professional and work hard to earn the starting spot back because this is his time to prove he has what it takes. Richards is an interesting possibility but most likely is a couple of years down the road.
Forwards: Boyd, Perlaza, Nagbe, Dike, Richards, Johnson, Valencia.
Boyd and Perlaza are the perfect fit for a 4-4-2 lineup and if they click will be a terror for opposing teams. If they do not click Nagbe can be a great compliment to Boyd and the only time Dike gets some run is if Boyd is unable to go as they are very similar what they bring to the team. Richards can be our next Boyd as he just seems to have a nose for the goal.