1) I was walking around the neighborhood, enjoying some of our intermittently beautiful spring weather, when, for no clear reason, I started thinking about Samuel Armenteros. (Okay, there is a clear reason: I suffer from CTOD — Chronic Timbers Obsessive Disease. It’s a real medical condition, with, like, doctors and medicine and stuff...) Anyway, once ol’ Sammy A was in my head, I started trying to come up with a Top 5 list of the Timbers most talented strikers. Notice that word talented. I’m not trying to rank our strikers on who is most valuable, or who has contributed the most to the club. I’m ranking them on who has the most talent, who has the most skill.
And you know what? It’s possible three of the five strikers are currently on the team.
2) The most talented striker the Timbers have ever had is Brian Fernandez.
BFF getting the top spot proves that this list isn’t about who’s most valuable. In his very brief stay in Portland, it’s possible Fernandez hurt the Timbers more than he helped them. (Notice I used the word possible.) The guy had a whole suitcase full of inner demons and those demons made a mess of the 2019 locker room.
All that being said, my God, was Fernandez talented. The dude was a cold-blooded killer. There was an intensity in his play that was almost scary, and if you got the ball to his foot in front of goal, chances were really damn high the ball was going in.
If the Rose City had been enough to heal his personal demons, BFF could have been an every-year 20-goal-scorer. But, alas, that’s not what happened, and our most talented striker was gone after only half a season.
3) Our 2nd most talent striker is Samuel Armenteros.
Sammy A had no personal demons, so he could’ve stayed in this league awhile, but he wanted to go back to Europe, so we were denied years and years of his fun and creative play.
If I need to win a game, I’m choosing Brian Fernandez, but if I need a beautiful, audacious, highlight-reel goal, Sammy’s my man. The guy tried shit, and more often than not, pulled it off.
4) Now, before I get to number three, I’m going to continue my duties as “Fanendo Adi’s #1 Defender.” Adi needs a defender because, for some bizarre reason, there’s a large chunk of Timbers fans who don’t like him, which is just nuts.
Let me ask you a question. Do you know how many times a Timber has scored 16 goals in a season? It’s happened three times, once by some guy named Valeri and the other two by Adi. Those were the two years he played a full season. In the two seasons he played 24 and 22 games, he scored nine and 10 goals, respectively. There are fanbases all across MLS who wish to God their team could have a striker who’s good for 10-15 goals a year. We had one for four years, and yet, Adi still gets dragged all the time. It annoys the hell out of me, so I’m gonna bitch about it.
If this was a list of Most Valuable Strikers, Adi would be number one. With a bullet.
5) All that being said, he’s not my 3rd most talented striker. That would be Jeremy Ebobisse.
Sorry, Fanendo, but Jebo’s just got more tools in his toolbox. In the last three years, we’ve seen him score on the counter, score on set pieces, score from in close, score from distance, score on deflections, score on rocket shots, score with his feet, and score with his head. The kid just won’t stop adding tools to his toolbox, and I think he’s passed Adi on the talent list.
(Don’t tell Adi this, but I think Jebo’s passed him on the “C.I.’s Favorite Striker” list, too. I know, I know... I feel terrible about it.)
6) The last two spots on this list are really hard to decide, because I’ve got three really good candidates: Fanendo Adi, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, and Felipe Mora.
Adi’s the guy who proved he could do it year after year. He also did most of the heavy lifting on my all-time favorite Timbers goal.
Niezgoda’s got a super soft touch, and combines really well in the box, but have we seen enough of him to rate him above Adi?
And Mora’s the guy who’s easy to forget, but then you look up and he’s leading the team in goals.
Those are the only three guys in the running. Everybody else falls a little short. Ryan Johnson? Kris Boyd? Maxi Urruti? Kenny Cooper? Darren Mattocks? They’re all blue-collar grinders, they’re all MLS-average strikers, but that’s not gonna get them on this list.
So who’s it going to be? Adi, Niezgoda, or Mora? Adi, Niezgoda, or Mora? Who gets these last two spots?
Okay, I’m gonna put Adi at number four and Niezgoda at number five. Sorry, Felipe. Knock my socks off at the start of this upcoming season, and maybe you can bump Niezgoda off the list. Of course, maybe later in the year, Niezgoda will get back on the field and knock my socks off as well. And hell, maybe Jebo will knock my socks so far off that he’ll pass Sammy for the number two spot.
This sounds like a fun competition, and I can’t wait to watch it unfold.
What do you think, folks? Who are your top 5 strikers judged purely on talent? Let me know down in comments.