1) Today, shit gets real. After a whole bunch of Top Five Favorite players and a couple Mount Rushmores, it’s time to get serious. It’s time for a Timbers Best XI.
Actually, it’s time for two Timbers Best XI’s. This week I’ll do a normal Best XI, where we choose players based on their entire career with the Timbers, while next week I’ll do another Best XI based on a player’s peak. (2018 Samuel Armenteros definitely ain’t making this week’s career Best XI, but next week? He’s got a shot.)
I’m putting the team in a 4-2-3-1, since that’s the formation we’ve used for the vast majority of our MLS existence.
2) Here’s my career Best XI. What do you think?
Now, let’s break it down.
3) The attackers.
Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco require no explanation.
Fanendo Adi at striker should require no explanation, but since so many of #YouPeople hate Adi, I’ll just thrown one stat at you. Regular season and playoffs combined, Adi scored 56 goals for the Timbers. The next most goals from a striker? Maxi Urruti’s 16. Adi’s not just in the lead, he’s more than three laps ahead.
Darlington Nagbe at winger is a little tougher. Did he actually play on the wing? Sorta. And also sorta not. I figure he, Blanco, and Valeri are going to be moving around a lot, switching their spots on the field over the course of the game. Does Nagbe have crazy good numbers like Adi, Valeri, and Blanco? Somewhat surprisingly, yes, he does. He’s third in games played, third in goals, and second in assists. But as I said in my Mount Rushmore column, Nagbe’s real value was in doing all the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
And anyway, who would you put out there if not Nagbe? I’m willing to hear arguments for Rodney Freaking Wallace, but past him, who would it be? Gaston Fernandez? Kalif “Jazz Hands” Alhassan? Yimmi “I’ve Literally Played Two Games” Chara? Please.
4) The midfield.
Diego Chara’s automatic. He requires no explanation.
Jack Jewsbury was a tougher choice. Going in, I thought Will Johnson was going to get this spot. I also sorta wanted to put Cristhian Paredes here, since I just like his game so much. But then I looked at the statistics and Jack came out the clear winner. Will Johnson had 18 goals as a Timber to Jack’s 14, but Jack’s got him on assists, 18 to eight. Plus, Jack smokes him on games played, with over 150 to Will’s roughly 75. They were both captains, so that’s a wash, but Jack’s reputation has fared much better post-Timbers. The Old Salty Dog gets this spot.
5) The defense.
Liam Ridgewell requires no explanation. The rest, however, probably do.
I went with Larrys Mabiala based on tenure and consistency. Also, who else is there? Nat Borchers wasn’t here long enough. (He might make next week’s peak-performance XI, though.) Futty Danso is my favorite Timbers center back, but I think Larrys is the better player. I’m not sure any other center backs belong in this discussion. Am I wrong? Let me know if I’m wrong.
Jorge Villafana and Alvas Powell get in on tenure. They are far, far, far and away our leaders in games played. Alvas never set the world on fire like Jorge did in 2015, but he was generally consistent and occasionally excellent. And anyway, who else are we putting at these two spots? Vytas and Jorge Moreira? Not enough tenure. MikeyMoMoney Harrington? Jorge’s the better player.
And finally, goalkeeper, a position where the Timbers have had a never-ending carousel of starters. Let’s see if I can name them all off the top of my head. Perkins, Ricketts, Kwarasey, Gleeson, Jeff Attinella, Steve Clark. I think Adin Brown played a few games. Joe Bendik, too. Did Andrew Weber? I’m probably missing a few people. The point is, nobody has a huge amount of tenure at this spot, so despite being with the team just 2+ seasons, Donovan Ricketts leads our keepers in games played, wins, saves, shutouts, and so on down the line. Jake Gleeson’s just below him in most of those stats, and Jake was with the Timbers for eight years, but I’m still going with Ricketts. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong.
6) And that’s it. That’s my Best XI based on total time with the team. Disagree on a few spots? Awesome, tell me why down in the comments. But don’t come at me with any “at his peak” arguments, because that’s next week’s column. You might see 2018 Samuel Armenteros there. And should it be 2011 Jewsbury or 2013 Johnson? What about Playoff Asprilla? Will he make it?
But that’s next week. This week, it’s about who had the best Timbers career. You’ve seen my Best XI, now let’s see yours.