The Timbers had a good week.
While the jury will remain out for some time on whether the Timbers’ new acquisitions will get the job done for the team, by all appearances the Timbers successfully executed their plan with respect to player additions while hitting the jackpot in not-losing the expansion draft.
So pat yourselves on the back, Merritt Paulson, Gavin Wilkinson, and Caleb Porter.
Now what’s next?
The Timbers roster stands at 24 players – 6 short of the 30-player maximum. Although there has been talk of downsizing rosters in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement, in light of the fact that the new CBA will likely not be finished until shortly before the season, it seems unlikely rosters will shrink in 2015.
So what are the Timbers to do with the other six-plus spots they have to fill out their first-team roster after a small group of players go on loan to Timbers 2?
A look at a rough sketch of the Timbers depth chart leads to a simple answer: not much, really.
Before we get to the rough depth chart, a few disclaimers. First, the point of this exercise is not to opine about who leads positional battles, but rather to get a forest-level view of roster balance. Accordingly, I only placed players in positions they’ve played in the past and to the extent depth chart rankings are in any way questionable, I essentially stuck with the status quo ante. Second, although the Timbers have multiple players who can play multiple positions, I have only listed starters in the depth chart at one position and players further down the depth chart at a maximum of two. Finally, the depth chart assumes the Timbers are lining up in a 4-2-3-1. Of course, the Timbers are more flexible than this and certain players fit best in their respective roles in different formations. So, to the extent you’re outraged I’ve listed Gaston Fernandez as an attacking central midfielder because you think he’s best as a withdrawn forward, try to take solace in the fact that a withdrawn forward in a 4-4-2 is the closest equivalent of the attacking central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1.
Goalkeeper: Adam Kwarasey, Jake Gleeson, Andrew Weber
Central Defense: Liam Ridgewell, Nat Borchers, Norberto Paparatto
Right Back: Alvas Powell, Jack Jewsbury, Taylor Peay
Left Back: Jorge Villafana, Jack Jewsbury, Jeanderson
Defensive Central Midfield: Diego Chara, Will Johnson, Ben Zemanski, George Fochive
Right Midfield: Darlington Nagbe, Dairon Asprilla, Schillo Tshuma
Attacking Central Midfield: Diego Valeri, Gaston Fernandez, Michael Nanchoff
Left Midfield: Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla, Michael Nanchoff
Forward: Fanendo Adi, Maxi Urruti
Considering we’re only in the second week of December, what’s striking about the depth chart is how complete it is. The only position noticeably thin on bodies is central defense, but even there the top three spots are accounted for. Otherwise the Timbers could add an additional fullback or forward for depth, but don’t have to emergently in light of the current state of the depth chart.
The benefit, of course, is with the exception of adding a journeyman centerback, the Timbers now have the luxury of selectiveness with any additional acquisitions. If the Timbers arrive on SuperDraft day with the fifth pick, they can simply take the best player available rather than fill a positional need. Or, if there’s nobody on the board they’re in love with, they can trade the pick for another asset Similarly, the Timbers don’t have to feel any urgency to fill many spots in the Re-Entry Draft. If the right player comes along at the right price, the Timbers can jump at that. But unlike some years past, the Timbers aren’t desperate to make any moves.
So, while we won’t know for quite some time if this most recent batch of signings is going to pan out, the Timbers are already reaping the rewards of their late-fall decisiveness.
What’s next, it turns out, looks much easier than in years past.