Perhaps not as glamorous as a marquee striker or midfielder, as what we've come to expect from MLS teams in the recent years, but I think, if anything, these past two road games have shown that the Portland Timbers desperately need to bring in a marquee, veteran defender to command and lead the back line. The mistakes I saw in last night's game and in the game against Toronto FC were just too glaring to ignore.
The unfortunate truth is that Hanyer Mosquera, while a decent defender, still makes plenty of glaring mistakes that leave Donovan Ricketts left wide open (or if you look back far enough Troy Perkins). And I think we all know that neither David Horst nor Futty Danso are ready for prime time either, as both continue to struggle with the same level of skill that top MLS defenders such as Victor Bernardez from the San Jose Earthquakes, or even defenders from our Cascadian rivals: Jay DeMerit or Jeff Parke/John Kennedy Hurtado. I don't want the Timbers to trade for those players necessarily, but the fact is they're far better at organizing their defensive efforts than any player the Timbers have currently.
So when that new head coach does come in, and hopefully he has a bit of freedom with organizing the squad to his own needs, the Timbers are ready to spend a bit of money on a top notch center back defender. Because you can bring in as many Kris Boyds as you want (even though he hasn't scored in a while), or any number of strikers, but the fact remains that a solid team needs to be built from the back and the Timbers, since their inception in MLS, has not had a solid defense.
But that leaves the question of who? Honestly, it would be impossible to say at this point. The Timbers are still fairly far down the pecking order for gaining a returning USMNT player.
Still, if there's one player who I think would be great at coming into the Portland Timbers, organizing the team for the next 3 or so seasons, and leaving a true mark on how the Timbers run their defensive backline for a generation after, it's gotta be USMNT captain Carlos Bocanegra.
I'll be the first to admit that this is a long shot. The Timbers would have to trade up to the #1 position and then MLS would have to convince Bocanegra to resign with the league, but his caliber of play on the field would be a boon to the Timbers for more than a single reason, in fact I'll give you five:
1. Having played on the USMNT team since 2001 he is a font of knowledge with regards to how US Soccer runs their camp and system. This would be great not only for leading the back line, but also in helping other American Timbers get an inside look at perhaps joining the USMNT some day... Eric Brunner, perhaps?
2. Still a Rangers man, Bocanegra probably doesn't want to waste the two years it's going to take him to return to the top flight of Scottish soccer, making a move to MLS all the better.
3. The Timbers currently have two former Rangers players: Steven Smith and Kris Boyd. Bocanegra is currently a Rangers man. Having three players who are familiar with the style of Rangers could come in handy when building from the back to the front. Bocanegra > Smith > Boyd.
4. International experience in the World Cup. EPL experience with Fulham. European experience with Rangers, Rennes and Saint-Étienne. Oh and he also has MLS experience with the Chicago Fire. Yeah, you're not going to find many big name defenders with those accolades under their belt.
5. Rangers is tatters and maybe Bocanegra doesn't want to waste two years of his remaining playing time trudging through the lower echelons of Scottish soccer, making a move to MLS all the more real. Additionally, the Timbers are only 6 spots down from the #1 position in allocation order. Perhaps a trade could be made with the New England Revolution to secure that spot?
What do you guys think? Is it time for the Timbers to splurge on a big name defender? Sound off in the comments and poll below!
Also, those of you who are skeptical, remember that the LA Galaxy were one of the worst defensive sides in MLS in 2008 when they brought on Gregg Berhalter in 2009 and he got things in shape... fast.