At sunshine’s suggestion, I am foregoing my usual practice of rating the players individually in order to talk at a little more length about the recent, momentous change that took place with regard to the lineup. I must admit that when sunshine texted me the other day to inform me that Perkins had been traded, I was pretty sure that he was joking. Sunshine has a bit of a weird sense of humor, and is not averse to cause pain to his friends, at least in a very minor way. On the face of it, the idea of shifting Perkins seemed so absurd that I assumed that he must be bored at work or something.
A quick scan of the relevant internet resources disabused me of this error. It took me another couple of hours to come to terms with it. If you look back at my player ratings over the course of the season, you will find grounds for my view that, although the team is in a parlous situation right now, goalkeeping woes have not been among the most pressing problems over the long stretch of the season. Quite the contrary. With the exception of the Dunivant goal a few weeks ago and his ill conceived (and ill executed) attempt to reach a free kick ahead of Danny Kaliff, Perkins’s season has been free of the sort of howlers that tend to haunt keepers. I think it’s fair to say that, week in and week out, Perkins has been the closest thing to a consistent performer that the Timbers have had all season.
And this is why this trade is so mystifying. I think that all but the most one-eyed fans among Timbers supporters will readily admit that there is some dead wood at the club that could profitably be cut away. Change must come. Our current position in the league basement dictates this. I must confess that, as I pointed out yesterday on our Facebook page, I have real difficulty seeing how this can be fit into a rational plan for improving the squad.
Perhaps at this moment it might be good to reiterate that I really do my best to give people with more information than myself the benefit of the doubt. I certainly don’t think that the folks running the show are stupid or cynical people. Far from it. I make the criticisms without the benefit of a full picture of the bases on which the decisions are made, so I concede that what I have to say should be taken with a grain of salt.
With that said, I still kind of mystified. Ricketts has had some decent seasons in his career, but his statistics and his injury record suggest that his best days are behind him. Perkins, on the other hand, was just coming into his own. It’s not as if Ricketts was lighting up the sky in Montreal, although the Impact’s status as an expansion team must be taken into account. There was some talk that Ricketts was being brought in to mentor Bendik and Gleeson, which wouldn’t be a bad thing I suppose, but why is this so far outside of Perkins’s purview?
In any case, how do we look at this in terms of big picture considerations? It’s clear that Portland is going to get a new manager, although whether it will actually happen between now and the end of the season is anybody’s guess. There have been noises recently that the search process was coming to a head, but I’ve yet to hear anything really definite. In any event, it won’t be Sean McAuley, since they’d more than likely have given him the position already if they were going to do it at all. New coaches tend to like to build teams according to the specifications of their own favored styles of play, and this usually portents changes in the composition of the squad. This is all the more likely in the case of this team given the anemic offensive production that they have managed so far. There a number of guys in the current squad that one might warn against making long term real estate purchases in the area. Typically, the slicing and dicing happens after the new manager arrives and has a chance to see the playing staff first hand. If this is, as was yesterday mooted in the Oregonian, the precursor of more extensive changes in the side, it seems like rather and odd time to do it.
Other rumors have been swirling. According some people I talked to, Perkins had turned in a trade request. According to others, he had been critical of management in the dressing room and was being shifted in order to prevent his dissatisfaction from becoming a disturbance. I’d have to hear something more closely approximating evidence before I would be tempted to give much credence to either proposition. But it’s not entirely surprising that talk like that is going on given the fact that this trade is very difficult to parse in terms of the information currently on the table.
The most disappointing thing from my perspective is the insight into management’s priorities that this move seems to give. Why did this bit of business need to be done now? Shifting one of the main figures in the team in the middle of the season is a bit of a shock, and I have a hard time believing that Ricketts wouldn’t have been just as available three months from now. I’ve been sort of perplexed anyway that they brought Danny Mwanga in with such fanfare and the proceeded to use him primarily as a late game substitute. I’m certainly not privy to what goes on in the training sessions, and perhaps there is more going on about which I am ignorant, but does make one wonder.
The puzzle that is the Portland Timbers has, for me, become just that much more complex in the last couple of days. When one writes about a team a lot, one is used to talking about steps forward or back, but this seems very much to be a move sideways and it’s hard to see how this will, in the long run, move matters in the right direction. Does anyone out there think they understand what’s going on here? If you do, feel free to offer clarifications, because I am in the dark.