Don’t worry Timbers faithful, you weren’t the only ones sweating. As striker upon striker upon winger was signed in the off season we rejoiced, but all the while we here at Stumptown were biting our nails the same as you. There’s no sugarcoating it: the backline is looking thin. With little depth at each position across the back, Timbers fans have been left wishing that Larrys really was plural.
Let’s start with a quick role call.
Dario Zuparic? Here.
Jorge Villafaña? Here.
Bill Tuiloma? Here.
Larrys Mabiala? Here.
Jorge Moreira? Here.
Julian Cascante? Here.
Marco Farfan? Here.
Depth player at right back? Bueller? Bueller?—you get the picture.
I think the center of the defense has been sorted. I know Tuiloma will be injured for a few months but Zuparic, Mabiala and Cascante are more than capable of forming strong partnerships.
I think Zuparic will establish himself as the rock at the heart of the backline and then it’s hard to say whether Mabiala, Tuiloma or Cascante will become the consistent partner for the big Croat. It’s worth mentioning that the Timbers took two center backs in the Superdraft. Zac Mcgraw from Army and Norwegian Joergan Oland from Fordham University, with overall draft picks 68 and 94, respectively. It would be disrespectful to say that neither will have an impact, but at the same time it would be arrogant to assume that either of them would.
Anyway. The center of defense isn’t a disaster. Zuparic will most likely be class. Tuiloma has proven his soccer IQ and adaptability since Coach Gio converted him to a defender and the Larrys will continue to bring experience and stability. Cascante isn’t a slouch either. It’s the fullback positions that have us squirming. Jorge Villafaña and Jorge Moreira are the clear first-choices at left and right back respectively but, heavens forbid one of them gets injured, we might be in trouble.
Look, we love our own academy product Marco Farfan and what he’s done in his 14 starts and 20 league games since 2017 but he’s still a kid at 21 and it’d be a stretch to expect him to slot into the left back position and hold it down against the top wingers of the league. I’d love to say that Timbers 2 have a few promising young talents but it would be wishful thinking.
At least there is an option on the left side. On the right, if Jorge Moreira isn’t healthy then there is no natural replacement. Murmurs have suggested that Andy Polo might be the subject of a new Gio science fair project and converted to a right-sided wingback or defender but we haven’t seen any evidence just yet.
The organization isn’t arrogant to any of this. In Costa Rica we had trialist and MLS journeyman Chris Duvall with the team. An experienced MLS right back who has spent seasons with New York Red Bulls, Montreal Impact, Houston Dynamo and more recently with USL teams like OKC Energy, Duvall could be a good option for us and add the much needed depth and competition for playing time.
20-year-old Pablo Bonilla, a Venezuelan youth international and T2 player got minutes at right back on Sunday against Vancouver but like Farfan, it’s difficult to say that he will be the go-to for depth. Anyway. It’s fine. We’re gonna be fine. Don’t freak out. Nobody is freaking out—especially not us at Stumptown.
Nobody is questioning our ability to score goals, but keeping them out might be a taller ask if injuries start to hit and the season wares on.
Thoughts? Concerns? Nervous Breakdown? Comment below!