1) Sick of all this cold, rainy weather? Here’s something to cheer you up: preseason has officially begun! Check out this video the team released last week. So many small but wonderful things to see. The Chara brothers walking through the parking lot. Jorge laughing in a film session. Coach giving his first speech of the year. The newbies going through the ass-whacking tunnel. Even something as simple as Timbers players running up and down a grass field kicking a ball lightened my spirit and got me charged up for 2020.
But, just like every year, the preseason won’t take place entirely here in rain-soaked Portland. Monday morning, the Timbers left for Costa Rica.
During the team’s two weeks there, they’ll play three games against Costa Rican teams. I’m pretty sure these games will not be televised or streamed.
Then the team be back here for more training, plus three games against MLS teams in the preseason tournament. These games might be televised or streamed, but I don’t really care, since I’ll be at the stadium watching with 25,000 of my closest friends.
2) Let’s talk personnel. The Timbers front office is still busy as hell filling out the roster.
Last week, we signed Tigard’s own Blake Bodily to a homegrown contract, which is nice.
Bodily’s been crushing it for the University of Washington the last three years. This is reason for optimism, but before we get too excited, I’ll remind you that Foster Langsdorf lit up the Pac-12, too, and he couldn’t get a whiff of first team minutes for the Timbers. It’s not a perfect comparison, since Langsdorf was a burly striker, while Bodily’s a speedy winger, but still, I can’t help wondering if Bodily’s MLS career will be just as disappointing.
Either way, I doubt we’ll find out in 2020, as he’ll probably spend the season with the Hillsboro HomestarRunners.
3) The Timbers may also be close to signing a young right back named Pablo Bonilla.
Pablo Bonilla, a Venezuelan U-20 international right back, will be joining @TimbersFC for preseason in Costa Rica. The 20-year-old has been connected with a move for some time and will link up with the team for their second week of preseason. #RCTID #MLS— Richard Farley (@richardfarley) January 22, 2020
Our right back situation’s very uncertain. I think Bill Tuiloma’s currently our backup right back. Unless he’s our starting center back, in which case I guess Marco Farfan becomes our backup right back. As well as our backup left back. (Help me out, guys. I’m almost positive I’ve seen Marco play right back. It may have only been one time. Does anyone else remember it?)
The entire back line’s depth chart is confusing right now. Adding Bonilla might help, or might just muddle it further.
VERY LATE UPDATE: Look what just came out on Twitter: Bonilla’s been signed by the HomestarRunners.
4) Another position that’s uncertain? Striker. The team currently has only one striker on the roster — Jeremy Ebobisse — but there are two other guys who seem pretty certain to join him.
The one you’ve already heard about, Polish striker Jaroslaw Niezgoda, is off getting heart surgery.
Jarosław Niezgoda przejdzie zabieg ablacji serca https://t.co/UsBw5sjo0k— Legia.Net (@LegiaNet) January 24, 2020
Heart ablation sounds scary as hell, but apparently it’s not. LaMarcus Aldridge had it done and he seems to be doing fine. It’s not Niezgoda’s first time getting ablated, either. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.
Anyway, the Timbers are waiting until that whole thing’s settled before signing Niezgoda, but that doesn’t mean they’re just sitting on their hands. Over the course of 48 hours last week, we went from “ever heard of some guy named Felipe Mora?” to “It’s all but official, Felipe Mora’s a Timber.”
Mora is indeed headed to Portland. Loan w/ option to buy, per source. He’ll be a TAM player in 2020.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) January 27, 2020
This is in addition to Niezgoda, who the Timbers are still on track to acquire. https://t.co/5Z8co9JEvK
What do I think of this? One, I think the whole thing happened fast as hell, and two, I think he’s had some good years in Liga MX, and that ain’t nothing. He’d be a TAM signing, so that’s cool. Would he be a starter? Second string? Third string? I have no idea. In fact, let’s give this conversation its own degree.
5) I don’t know what to think about the striker depth chart. Ebobisse was our leading scorer last year with 11 goals, he’s young, he’s getting better every year, and it would be a small-scale tragedy for him to get buried at the end of the bench.
Will that happen? I don’t know. Niezgoda’s gonna make a lot of money. You don’t sign guys to DP contracts and then sit them.
Mora would probably be making more than Jebo, too. And after starting in Liga MX, he’s not gonna want to sit in MLS.
And Jebo’s not gonna want to sit, either. He’s young, he’s productive, he got the team through a tough season last year, and if he gets sent to the end of the bench, he’s going to be pissed. Demanding-a-trade pissed? Maybe. I wouldn’t blame him.
So what will Gio do? Will he make this a truly open competition? Will he sit the DP? Will he sit the up-and-comer?
But here’s another angle: maybe we shouldn’t think of this as only a striker competition. Jebo played a lot of winger last year. And Diego Valeri’s often operated as a false nine. Maybe Gio will throw Jebo, Valeri, Niezgoda, and Mora into the same pot. The “attacker” pot. Hell, maybe he’ll throw Sebastian Blanco and Yimmi Chara in there, too. Maybe every week those six guys will compete for three or four starting spots, and the ones who don’t start will come off the bench.
I don’t know how they’d line up, exactly. Could we see a two-striker formation? Guy-who-knows-stuff Sam Stejskal’s hinting at that.
He’s still a part of their plans. From what I’m told, the Timbers are operating under the idea that he’ll miss time due to Olympics.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) January 27, 2020
Don’t be surprised if they start using two forwards, too. https://t.co/13o19hUYej
We can’t definitively answer any of these questions until the season starts, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet on a lot of flexibility from week to week. Let’s hope all these great attackers we suddenly find ourselves with are cool with that.
6) Let’s finish with something fun: the 2020 Axe Photoshoot. I didn’t get my photo taken in 2011 because I hadn’t moved to Portland yet. I didn’t get it taken in 2015 because I don’t like standing in line. And I haven’t gotten it taken in 2020... yet.
Will I? Maybe on Saturday. If I get up early enough. And it’s not raining. And I’m not too offended by the length of the line.
But the truth is, even if I do go, my photo won’t be the best. That honor will surely go to the beautiful bastards in the middle of this video.
Dear God in heaven. There’s not one single thing about this that I do not love. White turtlenecks? Blue jean jackets? Sunglasses? Gold chains? How could anyone top this?
And more importantly, who are these miracle workers? Are any of them reading this column right now? If so, show yourselves! Your city needs you, now more than ever! Step forward and receive your rightful glory!