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Six Degrees: Hits the Fan

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

In the offseason, there can be weeks when there’s literally nothing Timbers-related to talk about. This is not one of those weeks. Shit hit the fan this week.


1) In case you’ve spent the last week living in a cave – and, to be clear, no judgment. We’ve all been there – last Friday at 4 p.m., the Timbers released the world’s shortest press release. Brian Fernandez is no longer a Timber.

There was almost no information in the press release, and very little additional information elsewhere, so Timberdom has spent the last few days speculating and re-speculating and counter-speculating and counter-counter-re-counter speculating and you get the idea.

Don’t expect much more from me. Some people seem to think that, because I write for Stumptown Footy, I’ve got all sorts of inside information on the Timbers. This could not be further from the truth. I don’t know shit. I’m a fan, just like you, so I get info from all the same places you get it.

Don’t expect anything from this column other than more speculation, a bunch of questions, very few answers, and a few dumb jokes. In other words, a pretty typical Six Degrees.

2) My first thought on seeing the news? Sadness. I was really hoping Fernandez could outrun his demons. I was hoping that we’d get to watch him grow stronger, both on the field and off. I was hoping he’d fall in love with Portland because this was where he finally overcame his problems and became the man he’d always wanted to be.

That was the storyline I was hoping for. Instead, we got a great start, a mysterious middle, and an unsatisfying end.

3) Actually, the middle and the end were both mysterious, weren’t they? When it was announced that Fernandez checked himself into the MLS Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) for evaluation on Oct. 7, nobody really knew why. We assumed it was drugs, since he’d had problems with that in the past, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was behavioral.

What could “behavioral” mean? I don’t know. I can imagine a bunch of possibilities – depression, anger management, feeling like he was on the verge of using drugs again – but to be clear, I don’t actually know. And as far as I can tell, nobody outside the team knows.

So, Fernandez came out of the gates scoring tons of goals and then it stopped. Was it drugs or behavior? I have no idea.

Now the Timbers have terminated his contract. Again, was it drugs or behavior? Again, I have no idea.

4) Are you ready for a new twist? In addition to terminating Fernandez’s contract, the league is planning to sue Necaxa, his Liga MX team, the team we bought him from.

What the hell does that mean? You know how I always say I’m not a soccer expert? Well, I am definitely not a legal expert. I don’t know the first thing about contract law, so all I can do here is continue asking questions.

Did Necaxa lie to the Timbers? Did they tell us that Fernandez was sober and he wasn’t? Did they tell us something else that was false? Are the Timbers trying to get back part of the money we sent them, or all of it?

I’m sure some of you are lawyers, but even you probably can’t give answers without knowing details of the contract. And as I said earlier, the Timbers have released very little information. They’re playing this super-close to the vest. Which is frustrating. All us Timber-obsessives want answers!

5) Let’s stop speculating about Fernandez and start speculating about our remaining roster. What effect with all this drama have on our team?

Well, one obvious effect is that we now have another open Designated Player slot. Last week, we had one open slot, which the team did not want to use on Diego Valeri. Now we’ve got two open slots. Should the team immediately use one on Valeri? I kinda think they should.

But maybe I’m wrong. (I often am.) Maybe there are two high-level players the team wants to sign, and now they can. Maybe those two guys are amazing.

Or maybe they’re not. Maybe one of them is Kris Boyd 2.0 and the other is Lucas Melano 2.0. Maybe we can’t trust our front office when it comes to Designated Players.

Or maybe we can.

  • Successful DPs our front office has signed: Diego Chara, Diego Valeri, Fanendo Adi, Liam Ridgewell, Sebastian Blanco.
  • Unsuccessful DPs our front office has signed: Kris Boyd, Lucas Melano, Brian Fernandez.

That’s five successes out of eight, or a 63% success rate.

I’m not willing to go through every other MLS team’s success rate, (feel free to here) but I can immediately think of many, many misses. You know how great Atlanta United is, signing Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez? They also signed Hector Villalba, Ezequiel Barco, and Pity Martinez. That’s two successes and three failures. 40%.

6) Our 63% success rate is something to keep in mind when thinking about what General Manager Gavin Wilkinson and Director of Scouting Ned Grabavoy should do this offseason.

I’ve heard a few people say “blow it up.” As in, use this opportunity to get rid of a bunch of older, under-performing players, and bring in some young players. Players who will be the backbone of our team moving forward.

To which I have three questions.

One, which players would you get rid of? Valeri? Larrys Mabiala? Our entire back line?

Two, if signing one or two good players is hard, do you really want to try our luck signing 8-10 new players? We might miss on half of them and suddenly we’re winning the 2020 Wooden Spoon.

Third question, that brand new team you want, is it possible they’re already on the team? Cristhian Paredes, Marvin Loria, Jeremy Ebobisse, Tomas Conechny, Eryk Williamson. I could go on. Maybe the young players you want to sign are already here.

Okay, that’s a pretty good place to end this column. I’ve made a ton of speculations about Brian Fernandez and asked a ton of questions about what you think we should do next. Let’s talk about it down in the comments. Let’s talk about what may have happened and what should happen moving forward.