i hate those days when there is absolutely nothing to write about. luckily today is not that type of day. yesterday the timbers made a trade as sensational as the trade of bj honeycutt for trapper john. sure, both were sidekicks for alan alda’s hawkeye pierce, but from the moment that hippie honeycutt stepped onto the set all fun went out of M*A*S*H. (you all see what i did there?)
i know most are still reeling from the perkins for ricketts trade, but that was so yesterday. what i am talking about is the trade of intelligent ownership, management, and governance of a well run organization for the role of whipping boy, red-headed stepchild, and laughing-stock of major league soccer. well done. well done. next thing you know toronto fc will ”approach” the timbers to trade hanyer mosquera for dicoy williams. it is not as if timbers shipped their most consistent performer, who lends himself to the media and his fellow players, for a geriatric with bad hips. no, they just brought in donovan ricketts to replace a player who takes responsibility and holds the team above his own needs, fields the hard questions, and accepts the blame when he makes a mistake (remember this? i dare captain forever to do that).
when i begin to think about this trade, my mood bounces from confusion, to disbelief, back to confusion, then to anger, and then i relive every moment of horror felt when i received the news at 10:15 am, yesterday. this is not a simple trade to understand. it goes beyond the bounds of player for player, like for like trades that improve sides in areas they need improvement, and sharply smacks of the absurd.
if the trade involved one of captain forever, facepalmer, chabala, boyd, even kalif, the reasons for that trade would be apparent. i would understand and accept the trade of boyd and kalif–players who have flattered to deceive during their careers at portland. if it were jewsbury, facepalmer, and chabala i would personally drive any of the three to montreal to ensure their safe arrival. but to trade perkins, the most obvious choice for captain when captain forever is not feeling well, the fans choice for player of 2011, the fella who responds honestly to the hard questions and supports his teammates when on the pitch, seems an extreme display of myopia. perkins has been the one bright spot for the timbers in an absolutely terrible season.
the most telling aspect of this trade comes in two parts. first, montreal approached the timbers. and second, overwhelmingly, montreal supporters are in favor of this trade. either loyalty does not run deep for the québécois or the 24 matches ricketts started for the impact were not all that impactful. either of the two informative responses surrounding the trade suggests montreal are more than happy to see the back of ricketts.
but that suspicious approach and those unflattering responses did not dissuade timbers technical director from pursuing the large jamaican. through an ineptitude specific only to himself, gavin described this trade in terms of leadership and experience. he said that he expects ricketts to bring something more to this team than perkins did. claiming that perkins was neither vocal on the pitch nor with his teammates. as if one parting gutshot was not sufficient, gavin made this point on several occasions during an interview that was as focused as a 6-year-old boy without ritalin. and though he made clear how well he respected everything about troy perkins as a human being, he did everything he possibly could to tear down troy perkins as a player, stating:
Troy was a phenomenal person, a great human being, and a very good professional for us, but Ricketts is a very good professional, a great person, and, in my mind, a better goal keeper.
four years younger than ricketts, perkins has started in 51 more professional matches than his replacement. coincidentally, the same number of consecutive starts he had for the timbers during his career. but that strange irony will likely be missed by a man as intelligent as gavin. you know, the same man who adopted the idea that kenny cooper was the reason the timbers could not score enough goals and not the absence of a true creative engine. 20+ games into the 2012 season and the same issues of poor creativity and poor defense still exist.
yet, when gavin and his lackeys sat down to crunch numbers and do their clash routine while discussing who should stay and who should go, they all agreed perkins was the one position that could improve the side.
But when you sit down and you have staff meetings and you give everyone an active voice in that and the unanimous decision is, “this is right for the club,” you do what is right for the club.
first, to suggest that everyone in the backroom has an active voice only insults the intelligence of the timbers faithful. but to then say that this move was right for the club only reaffirms the belief that gavin has NO (see what i did there?) understanding of how to improve a team and make it mls quality. i am sure he can rely on the usual and standard sound bites used by spencer and others claiming the timbers create enough opportunities and finishing only needs to improve to justify his persistant failure to address more glaring issues. but even if that is not the case and the finishing is superb by his standards, putting a decent set of defenders in front of the keeper should be the next objective for the front office. right?
consider the worst defeat suffered by the timbers this season–the 5-0 loss to fc dallas. in that game, perkins was in a position to save only one of the 5 goals conceded. 3 goals were directly attributable to chabala’s terrible positioning and complete lack of athletic ability, and the first was attributable to kimura and kalif’s failure to track the play. while kimura is a superb upgrade from captain forever and facepalmer, neither he nor chabala are great examples of perfect defensive backs. add to those two the inconsistent play of smith, horst, futty, and the nutted eric brunner, the timbers have one quality defender. one.
opportunities on goal begin with defensive mistakes like the one made by horst on sunday. if you want to build a side that contends for trophies, build the defense first. you need look no further than sporting kc and real salt lake for that answer. once the stingy defense is in place, then you can tinker with the other pieces. it is safe to say that a keeper who has made 66 saves with the quality of defenders in front of him that perkins has had in front of him would most assuredly improve that standard with true quality defenders. i fail to see how placing an older, more error prone keeper with a save percentage lower than perkins (though they have been presented the same number of opportunities to make saves at 104), will improve this club.
the thing is, i do not blame ricketts. he did not pursue the trade (presumably his ex-employers did), nor did he accept it and move through with it–gavin did. beyond that, what gavin did was throw perkins under the first trimet bus that drove down morrison ave. perkins is 31. he is an outstanding competitor with a track record of doing well for the timbers and for all that i am aware, he also does well with his teammates. so, to use the additional attribute a willingness to enter into a mentorship role with the younger keepers is insulting. but if you do not believe me, why not read gavin’s own words:
When you start looking at making a business decision and what is right for the organization in the short-term and in the immediate future and even going into the long-term it is a very good decision for us.
We have got Jake Gleeson and Joe Bendik, and Ricketts accepts that he is a mentor for those two. That one day one of those two is going to surpass where he is. If you look at the body type and the type of player Ricketts is, you look at his personality, it is a better situation for the young goalkeepers as well. With the succession planning of the club and looking Jake and looking at Joe, we have the confidence that one of those two is going to develop into a starting goalkeeper within the next two years.
clearly gavin does not get it. in football, or any sport, the purpose of the game is to win, and if you cannot do that, you should provide your side the best opportunity to do so. if indeed providing the younger keepers opportunities in the first team was the purpose of this trade, why not just ship perkins off for a player the side really needs?
but if this is a business issue, why did he not consider all the potential future options when “approached” to bring in a mentor. in this case, in the proposed two-year, maturation schedule for bendik and gleason, or once rickett’s contract is finished, ricketts will be 37/38 and have no transfer value. on the other hand, perkins would be 33/34 and still have transfer value. not to mention the fact he is still an outstanding keeper, where ricketts is no longer the donovan ricketts of 2010 when he won the mls goalkeeper of the year.
for every time gavin looks to the past as an indicator of the quality the timbers will receive from ricketts for the next couple of years, i am certain many of us can look into gavin’s usl past as an indication of what the next few years will be like for the timbers as an organization. through his tenure as manager, and now as technical director, the lasting time of players within the organization is similar to the shelf life of milk. most go sour. players come, players figure him out, players get shipped off to the backwoods of patagonia. ultimately, that is what this trade is about–gavin.
i hope you all join me in wishing troy perkins every bit of luck in montreal. as gavin acknowledges, but fails to emulate, he is a class act and deserves the best. i also hope you all join me in welcoming donovan ricketts to this great club. remember: it was gavin’s idea, not his.