Commence face palm in 3... 2... 1...
As of last weekend's game the Portland Timbers have become the second team in the league this year to allow more than 50 goals so far. Chances are highly likely that that number will increase between now and the end of the season as well. It seems like an issue we have to constantly discuss here because, well, it's been an issue ever since the Timbers joined MLS.
So then what becomes of the Timbers backline as they head into an off season that's bound to be ripe with line up adjustments, trades, drops and general change? Unfortunately, it's not a terribly easy thing to predict given that Caleb Porter is remaining quiet on all fronts until he finishes his current season with Akron. Still, we can certainly speculate!
Here are a few scenarios I've been thinking of:
Clear the Bench
There are some out there who might be agree with this sentiment and, while I don't necessarily agree with them, it makes for an interesting idea. The basic truth is that the Timbers defense is in tatters. You can't allow 50 goals in a single season and call that any kind of success. Ergo, if nothing is working... it's time to start over from scratch!
This would essentially mean getting rid of:
- Eric Brunner
- Hanyer Mosquera
- David Horst
- Steven Smith
- Kosuke Kimura
- Lovel Palmer
- Steve Purdy
- Futty Danso
The obvious exclusions being: Chris Taylor (maybe), Ryan Kawulok, Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Ian Hogg who are all youngsters in need of development.
Still, looking at that list above, it's not inconceivable that the Timbers would want to start over. Every single player there has been inconsistent at times, some more than others. Not having a single consistent defender is a huge problem for any soccer team.
Clear Out Some, Bring in the Veterans
If you look at the Timbers back line the oldest player on the team is 29 years old. That would be Futty Danso, a player who only has a couple years experience in MLS and rarely gets playing time these days. After that it would be Kosuke Kimura at 28 and then Steven Smith at 27 (another player who has limited experience in MLS).
Fact is that veteran defenders can have a huge impact on a squad's defensive make up. They're more conservative, better guarded, and typically able to get away with far more. Just look at what happened in 2009 with the LA Galaxy and Greg Berhalter. The team's defensive backline was night and day compared to 2008.
There is reason enough to keep some players such as Steven Smith, who has been consistent lately, and perhaps Hanyer Mosquera as well. But without that MLS veteran it feels like the team is incomplete when it comes to defense. There's nobody there ensuring that David Horst doesn't run into the midfield with the ball. Nobody to ensure that offensive players are marked appropriately. More importantly, there's nobody in practice to tell younger defenders when they're making a mistake on the field.
It would be entirely reasonable for the Timbers and Porter to let go of players like Lovel Palmer, David Horst, and Kosuke Kimura in exchange for defenders who have multiple years worth of experience in MLS and who are perhaps a little more aged than the Timbers are used to.
They Just Need One More Season
Yes. This is an option as well. Perhaps the unlikeliest, but there's a bit of truth to this argument as well.
Of the four primary defenders that the Timbers play, three of them are brand new to the team and two of those are new to the league (Kimura, Smith and Mosquera). The fourth, Horst, didn't get much first team experience last year. While it might be a tough pill to swallow, sometimes teams just need time to figure each other out and figure out their opponents within the league.
I can't give you a defensive example of this happening (sorry) but I can give you a more general example in Chris Wondolowski. In 2009 Wondo joined the San Jose earthquakes from the Houston Dynamo, where he wasn't a star striker. In 14 appearances he scored 3 goals, a bit on the low side. Then in 2010 he went on to score 18 goals, followed by 16 goals in 2011 and now 21 goals so far this season.
Sometimes great combinations just happen. Maybe it's with the addition of just one more defender, or a better defensive midfielder. Maybe it's just with more time. But whoever says that because a player is inconsistent now, they'll be inconsistent forever hasn't seen a Wondolowski bloom in front of their eyes. However unlikely this scenario is for the off season, there is a chance that it could work.
So, with that said, how would you fix the defensive backline in the off season? Would any of these three scenarios work? Is there another scenario in your mind that would fit better with the Timbers of the future?
Sound off in the comments and poll!