The Portland Timbers have a fairly ridiculous number of players out right now for a team in only the fourth week of the regular season. Other teams can compete for injury quantity, but as far as the quality of the missing players goes, there are few that can compete with the Timbers.
In fact, the injured Timbers could make up the better part of a solid MLS starting XI.
Looking at the other injured players around the league, I got to thinking: if you were to make a side purely out of injured players, who would you take and how many Timbers would make the cut?
First, the players on the MLS Injury Report* on 3/25/15:
*The injury report has been treated as more of a suggestion than a requirement by MLS, so there may be other eligible players out there. Feel free to share them in the comments.
Chicago Fire: Mike Magee, Patrick Nyarko, Razvan Cocis
Colorado Rapids: Drew Moor, Marlon Hairston
Columbus Crew: Romain Gall
D.C. United: Markus Halsti, Luis Silva, Eddie Johnson, Michael Seaton, Michael Farfan
FC Dallas: Coy Craft, Stephen Keel, Dan Kennedy, Michael Barrios
Houston Dynamo: Raul Rodriguez, Ricardo Clark, DaMarcus Besley, Nathan Sturgis
LA Galaxy: --
Montreal Impact: Adrian Lopez, Justin Mapp, Maxime Crepeau, Dilly Duka, Cameron Porter
New England Revolution: Jermaine Jones, Teal Bunbury, Donnie Smith, Kevin Alston
New York City FC: George John
New York Red Bulls: Roy Miller, Ronald Zubar
Orlando City FC: Tally Hall, Martin Paterson, Christian Higuita, Carlos Rivas, Lewis Neal, Tony Cascio
Philadelphia Union: Andre Blake, C.J. Sapong, Christian Maidana, Eric Bird, Sheanon Williams, Conor Casey
Portland Timbers: Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Ben Zemanski, Michael Nanchoff, Jack Jewsbury
Real Salt Lake: Joao Plata, John Stertzer, Justen Glad, Pecka
San Jose Earthquakes: Mark Sherrod, Steven Lenhart, Jordan Stewart, Paulo Renato
Seattle Sounders: Osvaldo Alonso, Tyrone Mears, Clint Dempsey
Sporting Kansas City: Chance Myers, Krisztian Nemeth
Toronto FC: Steven Caldwell, Mark Bloom, Damien Perquis
Vancouver Whitecaps: Andre Lewis, Mauro Rosales, Sam Adekugbe
There are 67 players to choose from when building this team, with a fair number of starters and even regular MLS All-Star selections in the mix.
The fewest available options are at goalkeeper with only Dan Kennedy, Tally Hall, and Andre Blake in real competition for the spot. Kennedy and Hall certainly have the experience to backstop this side, but Blake is an exciting talent. Still, when building a new team, a steady keeper capable of making some big saves is a very good place to start and Kennedy's earned reputation behind the firing squad that was the Chivas defense gets his the spot here.
At centerback there are few names that immediately stand out; Drew Moor, George John, and Steven Caldwell are well known defenders in MLS, while Raul Rodriguez is a well thought of new arrival for the Dynamo. Moor seems like an easy pick here as the lynchpin of the generally very good Colorado defense over the last six seasons, barring his injury issues. For his partner, John, a commanding presence in the air, is tempting, but we'll go with Rodriguez as a quality passer out of the back to link up with the strength of this team: the midfield.
Before we get too far up the pitch, however, we need some fullbacks. Luckily for us (not for them) there are plenty of injured fullbacks of quality around MLS right now. Kevin Alson, Chance Myers, DaMarcus Besley, Tyrone Mears, and Sheanon Williams are all good backs that bring different skillsets to the game. It is hard to look past Myers, who has been part of the generally suffocating SKC defense since their return to respectability in 2010, while the second selection will have to be Alston who gives a somewhat more defensive look than a player like Mears, something that will be important when we look at the midfield and forwards.
At the holding midfield spot there is really an embarrassment of riches, including three of the Timbers' injured players: Will Johnson, Ben Zemanski, and Jack Jewsbury all fall into this spot, but they have some competition from the likes of Osvaldo Alonso, Marlon Hairston, and Ricardo Clark. Although Zemanski, or Jewsbury a few years ago, could have been in the running here, Johnson, Clark, Jones, and (sigh) Alonso are certainly the best three holding midfielders on offer.
Alonso seemed to have his struggles over the last two years, but he remains too darn good to ignore, leaving him and Johnson as the picks in the center of the pitch. Jones, like Johnson, is a midfielder comfortable running from box to box and should prove to be a good counterpoint for the Timbers' captain, giving the Timbers a very solid pairing in the center of the pitch.
With two holding midfielders, we sure could use an attacking midfielder to pull the strings along the forward line. Diego Valeri is the guy. Sorry, everybody else who might even consider themselves an attacking midfielder, but Valeri is one of the best players in MLS. He gets the spot.
Remaining in this conception we have two wingers/wide forwards and our center forward to be selected.
Up top there are several contenders for the center forward position, but really only two men to choose from: 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee or Ol' Deuceface himself, Clint Dempsey. Magee has a goal-scorer's instincts and the ability to match, while Dempsey is a player that makes things happen, both for himself and the players around him. In the end there is only one sensible solution: take them both. Both players are capable of sliding out wide and playing from the wing, so give yourself an interchanging strike force of two of the league's best.
There are plenty of attacking players and wide midfielders remaining to take the final spot on the pitch, including Patrick Nyarko, Luis Silva, Justin Mapp, Dilly Duka, Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong, Michael Nanchoff, Joao Plata, and Mauro Rosales, but it is Plata, the diminutive, playmaking goalscorer that somehow stands above the rest. We could look for more of a two-way player here, especially give the already anemic defensive prowess of the rest of our front four, but Plata's ability to change games that gets him onto the team.
Our lineup from keeper on down: Kennedy; Alston, Moor, Rodriguez, Mears; Johnson, Valeri,
Alonso Jones; Magee, Dempsey, Plata
What would your All-Injured lineup be? Feel free to share it in the comments below.