The Portland Timbers are set to make several moves on Monday with defender Nat Borchers and goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey looking like good bets to join the team. There are still holes to fill, however, as the Timbers' offseason continues.
The Timbers may have a pair of young, attack-minded fullbacks in Alvas Powell and Jorge Villafana, but the players behind them, Jack Jewsbury and Michael Harrington are looking like less and less of a sure thing.
Jewsbury, at 33 years old, still has some gas left in the tank and remains the consummate professional for the Timbers, able to be deployed just about anywhere on the pitch. Still, the club captain looked like he had lost a step last season and the possibility of him regaining it seems slim.
Harrington, meanwhile, looks unlikely to remain a Timbers player after the whirlwind of trades and player movement that will hit next week surrounding the Expansion Draft. The evidence remains very circumstantial, but there are persistent rumors that he will be traded to Orlando City FC, giving them a starting-caliber fullback capable of playing on either side of the pitch while leaving the Timbers without a true backup at the left fullback spot.
Update: Jamie Goldberg of the Oregonian has Harrington being traded to Colorado, rather than Orlando.
With the end of the Steve Zakuani experiment and the general under-acheiving of Kalif Alhassan, the Timbers find themselves with one of the league's strongest pairs of wide midfielders in Darlington Nagbe and Rodney Wallace, but next to no depth, with Michael Nanchoff and Schillo Tshuma the team's only really solutions for wide play. While Gaston Fernandez and Diego Valeri also have been known to slot in to one of the team's wide spots, the injury to Valeri and the need for Fernandez to fill in for him in the center of the pitch effectively ties up both of those players.
For their part, Nanchoff and Tshuma are both clearly skilled players, but neither is a proven contributor at the MLS level. The lack of playing time to date is certainly more damning for Nanchoff, 26, who has been in the league for four years now, but only managed to see the field for 85' of league play last season. Expectations are understandably lower for Tshuma who is four years younger and still on a Generation Adidas contract.
Even more troubling is the fact that neither player is known for their play on the right flank, leaving Nagbe as the team's only option there to start the season with the Timbers as they currently stand, assuming Alhassan is on his way out.
Timbers 2 Leadership
While not specifically a need for the first team, the sooner the Timbers can get their USL side's coaching staff together, the sooner they will be able to begin building the side in earnest.
The current CBA negotiations will necessarily slow down the building of the side as Gavin Wilkinson et al attempt to determine just what they will and will not be able to do in terms of sending players from T2 to the Timbers and the other way around, but a clear structure to the team will go a long way toward convincing talented youngsters to give T2 a try.
For the first team it has often been the case that after signing, players have come out and said that they were convinced to join the Timbers after talking with Caleb Porter about his vision for the team and T2 should be no different. Players will still want to know what they are getting involved with, and the sooner the Timbers can provide a more comprehensive answer to that questions by put in place a leadership structure then the sooner T2 will begin to resemble a real team.
There are certainly other parts of the organization that need strengthening, but these are three of the biggest. What need do you think the Timbers need to address the most? Is it one of these or something else entirely?