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The 2016 Timbers: Who Stays, Who Goes?

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we looked at some of the considerations at play with the various mechanisms that the Timbers have to their avail when it comes to re-shaping the roster for 2017.

Today we get somewhat less theoretical and assess who will likely stay and who will likely go when the Timbers’ 2016 blood-letting begins on Sunday morning. So, without further adieu, here is my final rundown of the 2016 Timbers’ likelihood of leaving this offseason:


Diego Valeri — Do I really need to explain?

Diego Chara — See Valeri, Diego.

Jake Gleeson — A successful debut season means the number-one is Gleeson’s going forward. Gleeson represents outstanding value and still has unexplored upside as a goalkeeper.

Alvas Powell — 2016 wasn’t his best season and it will be disappointing if this is a longterm plateau for Powell, but the reality is he’s still well ahead of schedule for a 22-year-old right back. If 2017 looks like 2016 for Powell, however, there will be more questions come this time next year.

Liam Ridgewell — Three words: Midseason contract extension. The Timbers are committed to Ridgewell for the next couple years (though now at a non-DP rate), and even with the offseason DUII it’s farfetched to think they’ll go in a different direction. 2016 was only an okay year on the field for Ridgewell, as he struggled with injuries and difficulty coagulating a liquid backline. Still, Ridgewell was pretty far down the list of the backline’s problems in 2016.

Vytas — In a season that was filled with disappointing signings, Vytas largely lived up to the job for which he was brought to Portland. Although he had a couple defensive miscues (mostly, however, early on during the expected adjustment period), on the whole Vytas showed he’s a capable defender and an asset in the attack.

Likely Staying

Darlington Nagbe — Yes, there was the report of Nagbe leaving for Celtic, but, as I explained in full elsewhere, I’m skeptical. I think it’s likely that Nagbe is worth more to the Timbers than he is to potential buyers, and the lack of concrete reports about Nagbe in the last couple weeks does little to dispel that notion.

Fanendo Adi — This is a big move — and this isn’t to say Adi’s status isn’t without uncertainty — but it’s been conspicuously quiet on the Adi front. With the end of 2016 playing out as it did, there was always a chance that both Adi and the Timbers might decide another year in Portland is mutually beneficial. The lack of transfer rumors could indicate that’s exactly what’s going on.

Darren Mattocks — Yes, he’s a Porter favorite. But he showed why that is toward the end of 2016. With lots of other uncertainty on the wing, Mattocks seems likely to come back to be part of the attacking corps. To be sure, he has to be healthier in 2017 than he was in 2016, but if he is able to stay healthy Mattocks showed in 2016 that he can be a difference-maker in the attack.

Jack Barmby — Barmby didn’t live up to the hype of the Mystery Winger, but that had more to do with the hype than with Barmby. His progress through the course of 2016 showed he can be a nice depth piece that, at just 22 years old, could still develop into more.

Taylor Peay — This may be a bit more uncertain than the others in this category. And that has little to do with Peay, who has generally been at least reliable when he’s played. But the Timbers have not done enough to find Peay playing time, and, now at the age of 25, it’s reasonable to wonder whether Peay has peaked with the Timbers.

Ben Zemanski — I agree with Matt Doyle’s thoughts on Zemanski:

Simply put, everybody needs a guy like that on the roster. Affordable. Reasonably reliable.

Zarek Valentin — Solid fullback who is naturally a right back, but who can play either side in a pinch. Sort of like Zemanski, that’s useful depth. Buttressing the likelihood of his stay in Portland is the fact that he has stayed in town over the offseason and is quite good at Twitter.

Neco Brett — Seven goals and three assists for T2 in 2016 to go along with a couple cups of coffee with the first team was a solid rookie season for the Timbers’ second-round draft pick. As long as the Timbers can make him no longer count as an international I think that’s enough to earn Brett another year with the club. If his international status remains into 2017, however, the Timbers’ hand may be forced as to Brett.


Jack McInerney — The second half of 2016 was an unmitigated disaster for McInerney, but the first half was actually quite successful. Ultimately McInerney scored 7 goals in all competitions, a somewhat disappointing haul but not a disastrous one. So to say the Timbers have to part ways with Jack Mac would be going too far. McInerney, though, isn’t cheap and given the need for cap space in other areas of the roster, Jack Mac may not be the best fit for the Timbers’ forward depth, especially since his role as a backup forward can be filled by Darren Mattocks.

Gbenga Arokoyo — His first half-season in Portland was derailed by a groin injury suffered in the first minutes of his T2 tuneup, and we didn’t see Arokoyo until garbage time of the season finale in Vancouver. So it’s not really possible to assess Arokoyo aside from his impressive resume (two recent appearances for Nigeria’s senior national team and four years of professional experience in the top flights of Sweden and Turkey before the age of 24). That, though, is a bit of a double-edged sword: Arokoyo might be good, but he almost certainly isn’t cheap. His return, therefore, depends on how he showed behind the scenes in his first few months in Portland.

Amobi Okugo — Okugo showed himself to be quality, experienced depth at both d-mid and at centerback, so his return wouldn’t be a surprise in any way. Still, depth players like Okugo move around quite a bit, so whether Amobi spends another season in Portland is anybody’s guess.

Chris Konokpa — He signed, he came, he didn’t play.

Wade Hamilton — Appeared and looked fine in the Timbers’ short-lived U.S. Open Cup appearance. Made a handful of solid T2 appearances, but spent a lot of the season training with the first team as the only backup Portland had to Gleeson for a long while. Accordingly, it’s hard to make a reliable assessment of Hamilton’s future.

Likely Leaving

Steven Taylor — Impossible to characterize Taylor’s debut with the Timbers as anything but a disappointment, and his likely price tag for 2017 makes it likely that he’ll spend 2017 running toward somebody else’s goalkeeper. But, in fairness, we’ve seen midseason centerback additions have up-and-down midseason debuts before breaking out the following year (Ridgewell immediately comes to mind). That combined with some uncertainty about his contract status for 2017 and the mechanics of parting ways make it possible — but, again, not likely — that Tails (Tayls?) returns in 2017.

Jermaine Taylor — The year started well for Taylor, but by and large the season was a disappointment. Unless his contract is such that he can justifiably be retained as a fourth centerback, it’s hard to see Taylor returning in 2017.

Andy Thoma — It certainly seems Marco Farfan is slated to take Thoma’s spot as the starting T2 left back and deep first-team fullback depth. Bright side: Thoma’s doppelgänger, Jake Zivin, had a nice debut season as the Timbers’ play-by-play man.


Nat Borchers — Although Borchers doesn’t appear to be ready to give up on his playing career just yet, it’s hard to see him coming back with the Timbers in a playing capacity. The reality of 35-year-old soccer players who are coming off a catastrophic achilles injury is harsh. This is — to say the least — a manifestly unjust ending to Borchers’s laudable time as a player in Portland and potentially in MLS.

Lucas Melano — Caleb Porter said the Timbers want to bring in two starting-quality wingers this offseason. If a terrible 2016 wasn’t enough writing on the wall for the Melano, Porter’s statement should be the nail in the coffin. Lucas Melano won’t be a Timber in 2017.

Ben PolkThis already happened.

Nick Besler — Although it’s easy to hot take about the Timbers lack of drafting success with regard to Ben Polk (take a look at who was drafted below Polk), this is the Timbers’ real draft-day miss. Matt Polster, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Tim Parker, Axel Sjoberg, and Cristian Roldan were all taken after Besler. A miss at 20 is one thing. Whiffing on the fifth pick in a pretty good draft is by far the greater sin. Although he had a somewhat better 2016 than 2015, it’s hard to see Besler becoming an MLS talent at this point.