6) In the spirit of please-give-me-something-Timbersy-to-think-about-during-this-friggin-quarantine, here’s another Five Favorites column. If you want to go back and read my previous Top 5’s, here are links to my favorite strikers, my favorite wingers, my favorite attacking midfielders, my favorite defensive midfielders, and my favorite fullbacks.
Today, we focus on my Five Favorite center backs. And, please remember, this is not a list of who I think is best, it’s a list of who I like. You don’t have to be good to make this Top 5, I just have to like you.
5) My fifth favorite center back is Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
Jean-Baptiste had the raw talent to be one of the best center backs in Timbers history, but then he was sent packing. Bad in the locker room? On the practice pitch? I have no idea, I just know there was something about him that I always liked. I liked his soft feet, I liked calling him “Beast,” I liked watching him clown Robbie Keane that one time, and above all, I liked his last-second goal that led to the loudest moment I’ve ever experienced at Providence Park (volume up for awesome).
4) My fourth favorite center back is Liam Ridgewell.
I feel a little bad about not having Ridgy higher on this list. I think he’s probably the best center back we’ve had, and as far as I could tell, he seemed like a decent guy. Maybe I’m holding all his injuries against him. The guy really was made of glass. But injuries aside, Ridgy seemed like a good dude. If you haven’t seen Jamie Goldberg’s post-MLS Cup locker room interview with him, you need to. Truly epic.
3) My third favorite center back is Larrys Mabiala.
I can never decide if Larrys is a hella good center back or not. Fortunately, as I said above, this list isn’t about ability, it’s about likeability, so the big Frenchman gets a high rating. Dude plays hard, is super reliable, seems like a good guy off the field, and has the second-best smile on the team. (btw, I pronounce his first name la-REESE, sort of like the woman’s name Clarice, and I’m pretty sure I’m right. Anybody with inside information want to confirm this? Any francophones want to chime in?)
2) My second favorite center back is Nat Borchers.
He was only here in Portland a couple seasons, but man, did he fit this city like a glove. He had the big lumberjack beard, he was rock steady in front of goal, and he was utterly charming in all his interviews. In fact, he gave such good mic that, as soon as he retired, he picked up a mic of his own and now works as the sideline reporter for Timbers broadcasts. Just a quality dude, all the way around.
Here’s a photo of him getting his beard trimmed after we won MLS Cup.
1) My favorite center back is Mamadou “Futty” Danso.
I’ve got such a soft spot for Futty. The dude was on the team back in the USL days of 2009 and 2010, and it was assumed that he’d be gone once we joined MLS, but he just kept playing and playing and playing. So many times we wrote him off as too old or too slow or too something else, but nope, he kept suiting up and playing important minutes for the team all the way to 2014.
According to #StatMan Mike Donovan, Futty is number three on the list of most MLS games played by a Timbers center back...
Timbers- Ridgewell, Mabiala, Futty, Borchers, Brunner— Mike Donovan (@TheMikeDonovan) March 30, 2020
Thorns- Menges, Sonnett, van Hollebacke, Williamson are only 4 who have played that much.
… but I’m pretty sure that if you add his 40 USL games, he’d top that list.
Not enough? He and Pa Modou Kah made up the best-named center back tandem in MLS history: the Great Wall of Gambia.
Still not enough? Here are Futty, Kah, and Donovan Ricketts celebrating a goal.
Still not enough? Those three striking a pose at a Timbers post-season banquet is literally my all-time favorite Timbers photo. I love it so much. This photo alone would probably make Futty my favorite center back, but when you combine it with everything else, there’s no doubt. Futty’s my guy.
And that’s it. Those are my five favorite center backs. Not the team’s best center backs, just the ones I like best. Got someone else who you’d put on your list? They don’t have to be good, you just have to like them. Any David Horst fans out there? How about Eric Brunner? Tell me your favorite center backs down in the comments.