Hello ladies and gentlemen and a happy Sunday to you all. I am currently rolling with the Megabus between Chicago and points east and if you’re reading this it means that (contrary to my expections) I’ve gotten their wi-fi working to such an extent as to be able to post this thing. If you’re not reading this, well, it doesn’t matter anyway.
I didn’t see out 3-0 victory against FC Tucson. Of course, nobody did who wasn’t actually in Tucson. I discovered later that it would have been possible to follow what was going on via Twitter, but I don’t do Twitter. sunshine is the guy who does pretty much everything on our Twitter account. For some reason that particular format has never really appealed to me. sunshine and I are a bit like Jack Sprat and his wife. I can handle no Twitter, he can handle no Facebook, but between the two of us we seem to manage to get the full measure of social media exposure. I’ll have more to say about that below. Suffice for now to say that I only have the most general idea of what went on down in Tucson, other than that we won and who scored.
One thing that I do know about (at least to the degree that anyone outside the Timbers camp knows about these matters) is Bright Dike’s knee. According to media reports he’s just had arthroscopic surgery to repair a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament. This came as no surprise to me. As people who were following my Facebook posts during the Seattle match may remember, I said that it looked like he made a quick grab for his knee after colliding with Seattle’s keeper. It was hard to tell exactly what had happened because the camera angles were so wonky, but I definitely got the impression at the time that some sort of knee tweek had happened, and so it was. This has got to be kind of a tough blow for a guy who is only about two years removed from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Recovery time from this sort of thing can be a bit hard to predict, especially if one doesn’t have precise information about the nature of the injury. At least it wasn’t a full tear, so there is a possibility that the time frame could be weeks instead of months.
Months, yes, months. As in the case of Brent Richards who, it was announced a few days ago by the team, just had surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus. I really feel for the guy. He played some good minutes last year. He was raw for sure, but he had talent and looked like a guy who could add some useful dimensions to the side with the proper development. On a more selfish note, this leaves us a bit thin in attack. [I feel like there is some sort of weird harmonic convergence between the Timbers and Arsenal these days. Both seem to have a plethora of central midfielders and a shortage at other positions.] Richards was mostly used out wide last year, so his loss it not quite as worrying as Dike’s. I am on record as saying that Dike is at best a B+ grade talent. Admittedly, he is a very hard worker and has improved his game markedly over where it was when he got sent down last year. On the plus side, at least in terms of what he was bringing to the team, he really looked to be about the best thing that we had going up front.
Where does this leave us in terms of attack? The situation is a little murky, but one thing is clear. This is the moment at which Danny Mwanga needs to step up and show that he deserves a spot in the side. This is like one of those moments in a thoroughbred race where an opening appears in the pack and a horse that’s been trapped in the middle has a chance to break into the clear. Mwanga has been pretty unimpressive so far this preseason, and the lack playing time in the previous campaign seems to suggest that the coaching staff didn’t have great confidence in his ability to get it done. With the departure of Boyd and the injury to Dike there is now an opportunity for him to get an extensive run out and really show what he can do.
Another thing that occurs to me is that this might provide an opportunity to change the equation with Darlington Nagbe. He’s been shifted out wide for much of this preseason because of the overload of quality that we have in the middle of the park. This situation might provide an opportunity to move him back into a more central position, either partnering Mwanga up front or as part of a three man midfield in a 4-5-1 formation. Anyway, it’s just a thought. At this point I’m just not sure who else we could put up there. Nagbe’s pace and clever running could be effective up top, especially now that we have a guy like Valeri who really looks to pick out passes to cutters (and has the quality to do it).
I’ll return to this topic as the preseason continues. In the interim, people should feel free to offer up any suggestions that they might have about how this situation might best be addressed. Returning for a moment to the matter of social media discussed above, some of you saw that I essentially live blogged the match against Seattle the other day, at least in the sort of limited way that Facebook posts allow one to do. Some of you may remember that I did something like this in the lead up to matches last season. I am going to try to bring this back for the coming regular season, but only for road matches. It makes more sense to do it that way. Ultimately I’d like to set up a platform for real live blogging of the matches (yes I know that Stumptown Footy does something like that, but I think that there is room and processor speed for more than one outlet). Anyway, it’s all part of the plan to make The Axe a bit more interactive, so we’ll see how it goes.