With the start of the season coming up fast, Aaron Long and George Fochive are still working with the Portland Timbers and hoping to show Caleb Porter enough to sign them.
At first glance the two Timbers draftees, taken with picks 36 and 39, seem very similar. Four year starters in the center of the midfield for their respective college programs, Long and Fochive were both relatively unheralded coming into the 2014 Superdraft and had many Timbers fans scratching their heads after their picks.
There are, however, some big difference in the two players' styles.
Fochive is a prototypical defensive midfielder, willing to sit back and win balls while providing a shield in front of the defensive line. His passing is largely simple and high percentage. To that end, Fochive is unlike every other defensive midfielder on the team. Will Johnson, Diego Chara, Ben Zemanski, and even Steven Evans are all players who are wont to roam from box to box, rather than staying back on the defensive side of things. This is exactly the opposite of Fochive's natural playing style.
Caleb Porter described Fochive's play after practice on Tuesday:
George Fochive is just a holding mid and, by the way, he is very functional. He knows the position and he does the job and you won't see him try to do anything different. He is going to try to win balls and try to play very simple. He is going to be positionally sound. He is going to be mentally tough. He is a man as well; he is pretty strong, physically, for a young guy. He is a guy that you can plug in if you need to.
Aaron Long, on the other hand, is a much less specialized player than Fochive at this point in his development, a quality that has left the Timbers' coaching staff trying to find the best position for the big rookie.
Aaron Long is a good player; he's talented, he's got the body, and he's good on the ball, and he's athletic. I think we are going to have to figure out what his best position is. He played kind of as a box-to-box midfielder in college, but obviously that is based on what they wanted him to do and the impact they wanted him to make.
I think he is capable of playing in a lot of different positions. I think he can play in the center, I think he can play wide, I think he can play as an outside back, maybe even a centerback. We need to figure that out and it might be based on what we need as well.
We wanted to see him on the wing, how he did there, then we moved him back to a holding mid. I think he is an interesting player because of his talent and qualities.
Like Fochive, Long brings a different look to the Timbers than any of their other central midfielders. Perhaps the best comparison would be to 2011 Jack Jewsbury: a player who can occasionally get forward with the attack, but whose strength lies in his distribution and calm play in the center of the park.
Of course, Long's game as it stands right now, still needs plenty of refining and adapting to Porter's system, while Fochive seems almost ready made to step in if need be.
Is his upside as big as an Aaron Long? Maybe not, but is George a bit more ready to be plugged in to a position now? I think so. We like both of them. I think they are continuing to show us that they have a good shot to make the team.
Both players may be well down the Timbers depth chart, but with the roster slots available a signing could be coming soon.