By - BacteriaEP
Some thoughts I shared to a friend yesterday, regarding the state of the team:
It's an interesting situation.
With the rising prevalence of the work-horse, holding midfield in the 4-3-3 (ala Klopp's Liverpool), the traditional playmaker role - especially the Argentine model of it - has sort of disappeared/shifted in favor of chaos-maker wingers. Some of those very creative and technical players can make the jump to the wing (Blanco) and some cannot (Valeri).
EDIT: I wanted to add here - Yimmi, Moreno, and Asprilla *are* these chaos-maker wingers. We started counter-pressing toward the end of the season and made a cup final with that. Blanco could still work in this system...unless he drastically slows down due to a series of significant injuries. :(
From what I can gather, Savarese has been trying to move toward that counter pressing system but the contracts of Valeri/Blanco would have made them very expensive luxuries in a system that doesn't prioritize their best qualities.
It's honestly not a bad strategy. It typically makes the players greater than the sum of their parts. I think that's part of why GGG and his umbrella are so married to it. It's been rather successful with a very young national team squad.
This team needs to get younger and while it hurts to lose talismanic players like Blanco and Valeri *at the same time,* the shift could genuinely allow us to be a more well-rounded team.
We have obvious holes at GK, CB, and FB and these need to be addressed carefully by the FO. Bingham/Ivacic may be uninspiring choices but they will not be expensive and prioritizing other positions will allow us to spend money on shoring up our backline, which has been necessary for years. We *can* buy a goalkeeper in the summer if those two options are really as trash as outside observers seem to think.
What I'd Like to See:
U-22 Centerback: Ideally, this is a high ceiling player with excellent distribution. We're investing hard here and need to make it count. Mabiala likely starts the first couple games with this guy transitioning in. We've sorely needed this player for so long, *my god*.
RB: Sucks about Van Rankin. Sucks about Moreira. We still need to find a starting rightback.
LB depth: I'm honestly kinda hoping that Rasmussen can step in and do a job. Want our draft picks to atual matter.
GK: As mentioned, likely something that waits until the summer or next winter. We'll have a stable of cheap maybes for at least six months. Unless one of them has a Clark-type season, I see us spending money here down the road.
> U-22 Centerback: Ideally, this is a high ceiling player with excellent distribution. We're investing hard here and need to make it count.
Yeah, this would be wonderful, but not gonna happen. If there's a really good U22 CB, they're not coming to Portland. Talented young CBs are pretty much the rarest footballing commodities worldwide. We found that out the hard way last offseason.
MLS has had some luck here, but it's difficult - historically, domestic talent - especially through the superdraft, has been the place to find young, impactful CBs - since CBs typically mature a smidge later, having 3-4 years of college competition against the same maturity translates better to a direct impact. There aren't a lot of 19/20 yo CBs that are vying for spots in a lot of places.
Starting/top2 CBs from the super draft: Jack Elliott, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, Tim Parker, Lalas Abubukar, Sean Nealis, Jack Maher, Henry Kessler.
CBs that would qualify for U22: Mamadou Fall (LAFC), Anton Walkes (Charlotte/Atlanta - U22 when acquired), Malte Amundsen (NYCFC), Thomas Edwards (NYRB), Lucas Monzon (NYRB), Carlos Teran (Chicago), Christian Makoun (Charlotte), Andres Reyes (NYRB), Rank Veselinovic (Vancouver)
I think we’ll see a higher quality of CB come through the U22 program than the previous CBs that were 22 or younger, simply because of the ability to spend on them (Veselinovic, Makoun and Fall are good examples of this) - perhaps the Timbers can find one of their own.
To nitpick, only a few of those guys (Teran, Veselinovic, Makoun, and Reyes) are permanent acquisitions, since loans wouldn't make a ton of sense for the U22 initiative (also, Amundsen is a LB and Fall is a Montverde Academy product so no transfer fee). And none of them have yet panned out as clear starters.
But that's unimportant because your broader point of:
> historically, domestic talent - especially through the superdraft, has been the place to find young, impactful CBs
is absolutely spot on. Why spend on a transfer fee when most of those guys in the domestic list have already proven better than a vast majority of the internationals?
The Timbers have a revered scouting network, but GWs increasingly apathy towards locating/valuing intraleague/domestic talent has been a mistake. It's generally much harder to find young defenders abroad because if there's already tape on them and they're good, they're making bigger jumps than MLS.
Yeah, I was listing those players solely to illustrate the type of CB talent that would be in that u22 bucket - thought that Amundsen played some CB, but I must be misremembering.
Veselinovic on as a loan, with an option to buy at 3 mill - they aren't U22 right now but when I exercise that option after getting a year of good value from them, they will still come onto the roster as a Y$ - so, yeah, for roster purposes on a loan they aren't technically occupying that spot, but it's not like it's insane to take a U22 as a loan first.
>The Timbers have a revered scouting network, but GWs increasingly apathytowards locating/valuing intraleague/domestic talent has been amistake.
Would you really call the Timbers scouting network "revered"? They definitely have \*some\* success historically, but they certainly have their fair share of misses - especially with younger players and domestic players. I'm happy to chalk up some of the domestic academy woes on our limited homegrown territory, but I'd also point to the handfuls of players that have been signed in the past for T2 with an eye towards the MLS roster that have all fallen flat. For the most part the Timbers have been below average at identifying and cultivating youth talent - \*especially\* domestic talent and I don't know if that all falls on GW.
It's less my opinion and more something often written by Sam Stejskal, which is why Grabavoy is brought up every time there's an open GM position.
> Despite his lengthy career in the domestic league, one source at another club said Grabavoy’s biggest strength was an extensive international scouting network.
Our international scouting dept. is one of the best in the league, and it should be because we pour a disproportionate amount of money into it. Of course, the big misses stand out, but every single MLS club has notable misses. In general, our foreign players tend to be very good.
How many MLS clubs would want a Valeri, Chara, or Blanco? Go a rung lower and Mabiala, Zuparic, Mora, Niezgoda (when healthy), Yimmi, Ridgewell, etc. would all help any other team they'd be on.
Moreno and Bravo will likely join that list soon.
> For the most part the Timbers have been below average at identifying and cultivating youth talent - *especially* domestic talent
This is true though. But that's a separate category from international scouting. The Timbers are elite MLS-wise in one category, and subpar in the other.
Understood, same/same. I thought, considering the context of what we were talking about and your statement about Timbers having a *revered network /but/ GW is apathetic towards domestic* gives the impression that you're talking about scouting as a whole and not solely about the international scouting arm of the organization.
I'd say that the Timbers domestic and youth scouting falls well outside of *revered.*
Yeah that's fair, my fault for the lack of clarity :)
We shall see. I expect movement to happen relatively fast after the Blanco situation finalizes. That will impact a lot of the FO's roster flexibility.
To be clear, I'd love love love to be wrong.
> I expect movement to happen relatively fast after the Blanco situation finalizes.
And I agree. Keep an eye on the summer too. It's a better window to find DPs, so I think we'll sign one U22 guy now and hold off to find the 3rd DP in July.
That 3rd spot hopefully goes to a Y-DP so we can get max U-22 slots.
**U22 Initiative Roster Slots:**
>Each MLS team will have up to three U22 Initiative Slots that will each occupy one of the 20 existing Senior Roster Slots. The number of U22 Initiative Slots available to each team will be based on that team’s use of its third Designated Player slot.
>If a Club has a vacant third Designated Player slot, the Club will have available three U22 Initiative Slots.
>If a Club elects to sign a third Designated Player, the number of U22 Initiative Slots would be impacted in the following way:
>*If the third Designated Player is a Young Designated Player, the club will have all three U22 Initiative Slots.*
>If the third Designated Player is age 24 or older, yet is at, or below, Maximum Targeted Allocation Money Amount ($1,612,500), the club will have all three U22 Initiative Slots.
>If the third Designated Player is age 24 or older and is above Maximum Targeted Allocation Money Amount ($1,612,500), the club will have one U22 Initiative Slot.
I am actually really confident with our team going into this next year. We have a handful of players who are really starting to come into their own. Niezgoda alone has a lot of quality and he doesn't even start. How many teams can say that?
Moreno honestly looks great now. Where and how far up his ceiling is so exciting. How many teams can say that?
Losing Clark and playing Ivacic is weird for sure. This is the X factor and honestly the only thing I am uncertain about. Why they let Steve walk or the circumstances around that are disappointing for sure, I dont believe Ivacic has gotten a fair shot. Coming from Slovenia to Portland, Clark playing out of his mind and of course Ivacic's knee injury kind of made it impossible for us to really get a feel on him.
IN the end you have to read in between the lines. I personally have a lot of faith in our front office and the coaching staff. They are not stupid and only they are privy to the trainig sessions. I cant imagine a scenario where Clark leaves and they decide to play a crap goalie as the fill in solution.
The focus on Blanco is warranted. He is the engine and the most impactful player on the team when healthy. I think if his injury issues were not a concern he would of likely been extended by now. I think its more than reasonable to expect he goes somewhere else. It will sting and feel weird but again i have faith in the FO and coaching. It opens up so many options for the timbers to try to bring in someone of Blancos caliber at a younger age.
Fore example, trading Ebobisse sucked. He was beloved by the fans and the team. But this was largely a result of bringing in a guy like Moreno who looks legit.
Asprilla, Williamson, Bravo, Dos Charas. Zuparic, paredes, Polo, Tuiloma and Mabs all get me excited. They earned our trust to run this back.
Lets wait until we dont have a win until late April to panic
If we don’t have a win by the end of March after hosting Austin and Orlando, and playing an away game in Dallas, I’m gonna be livid.
That’ll be 5 games into the season, but those are 3 very winnable games and I would put my point expectation at 5 points from those 3 at a minimum.
oh for sure. I was more making a bad joke about how Timbers tend to to struggle out of the gate and then rally later in the year
My first thought in my head was "well we never win in March anyways" but then I went to check the schedule just to see.
I’m not as gloomy as some other. I’m ok with giving Ivacic a real shot at the starting keeper role. Our team is largely intact with a healthy Niezgoda, who I’m excited to hopefully see a run of games from.
Blanco situation is weird, I still think he will be back and am not panicking very much, but who knows.
Moreno is gonna be the star this season, he was so good last year and I think he was good enough to bench Asprilla, as much as it pains me to say because I love me some Dairon. If Paredes can keep his form, our midfield and front line is looking pretty same sexy.
Backline is of course the issue, seems like each year is the year we say “ok Mabiala can’t be starting, right?” So who knows if Tuiloma will be a starter or not. Mabiala ended last year really strong so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the XI.
There will be signings along the backline, we just need the Blanco thing to be resolved first. Since the Timbers put up an interview with our draft pick that may be a sign that we’re actually planning on using him as a backup LB, which I would be definitely ok with. When asked about David Ayala, Farley said the Timbers are in talks with someone of “that caliber,” so I would assume that the Ayala thing isn’t happening, but we are planning on using a U22 spot or a YDP on someone like him, which makes me excited. I’m not sure what position that would be however.
Maybe it’s just my blind optimism but I’m excited and have fairly high expectations, especially if we have Blanco. Bravo will have another year under his belt as well. I still think we have a damn good squad
*in the nacho libre voice*
Ohhh I’m feeling goooooood. Like reallly goooood.
There will be a big difference between having a healthy Blanco or not, and having a Van Rankin level right back or not. Also the Western Conference just got tougher with the addition of Nashville.
But that said…
There is no field player on the roster in whom I lack confidence to put in a good shift.
I expect rough times through the first half of the season as the defense learns to work with new pieces, especially in goal. This will be followed by an improvement as Williamson comes back from injury and the summer transfer window lets us fill any holes in the depth chart. That said, the season being pushed earlier might mean more of our season is before the transfer window and Williamson’s return.
Missing the playoffs entirely would be a surprise, and it’d be shocking to finish the season under 10th place in the West. (Only several injuries or a complete collapse at GK could land us that low.)
Even without Blanco, I think our squad as it exists today has the ability to be a western conference final contender. I don’t think we’re a supporter’s shield contender though, and finishing at the top of the conference would be as big a shock as finishing in the bottom third.
I didn't think we would make the playoffs last year, then we did.
I didn't think we'd go on a run in the playoffs, and then we did.
So, my personal opinion is that we are due a rebuilding year as we focus on what the future of the Timbers looks like without Valeri and without Clark and probably without Blanco. I don't see how that team could be a playoff team, but I also didn't see how last year's team was going to be one during the dark times.
I'm thinking mid table and we figure out what the future looks like.
I'm really unhappy about the keeper situation, considering how cheap Clark was and the fact that we got Valeri off the books with some cash. I'd actually like to hear about what happened with attinella, considering he always looked a hell of a lot better than ivavic ever has to me.
Outside of that, we need to resolve Blanco, and then we can sort the rest. I don't think it's panic time yet.
The way I see it, both Ivacic and Bingham should be cheap. We're taking a flier on the two to bring in U-22 defenders. We likely get a locked-in GK in the summer/next winter unless one of the two has a Clark-like renaissance.
Clark made less than the trade fee for Valeri. We will pay more for less talent if we find ourselves in that position. Otherwise we will settle for a poorer quality keeper. These are, I think, unavoidable facts.
Salary figures and xAM aren't precisely 1:1 but I get what you're saying. We got super lucky with Clark's resurgence and I think Ivacic just hasn't worked out in clearly replacing him, partly due to iffy performances and partly due to unfortunate lengthy injuries. Personally, whether or not signing Ivacic/Bingham is a good plan entirely comes down to the length of said contracts. Anymore than 1 (+1) years and I'll be extremely annoyed.
I mean it really comes down to how they perform. I hope I'm wrong and ivacic grows into the role. From what I've seen, I just can't see it. Bingham I don't really know, but he's not top tier and hadn't seen minutes in what -- a year?
I just keep telling myself that Clark was in a Bingham situation when we signed him. Very much on the outs league-wide. Now he's a quality free agent. Unfortunately, I doubt that happens twice in a row.
The problem is Clark wasn't cheap. Houston apparently offered him a shitload in FA and he took it.
And Attinella is going to retire.
You know what they paid him?
And why did he retire? All that rehab to retire?
We won't find out officially until MLSPA releases salary data, but a report from Striker Texas (I wanna say) said two guaranteed years + options for '24/'25 at a nice sum.
Great for Steve, who is not gonna get better than that at soon-to-be 36.
So I don't think the mistake is letting him walk as much as it is not finding a better replacement than Ivacic/Bingham.
Yeah sounds like less of a mistake and more of a set of unfortunate circumstances. That makes me feel a bit better.
Atinella hasn't played since getting subbed off in May. My suspicion is he was rushed back and reinjured himself, and never got his form back.
I just want to be less annoyed by the other fans on the internet this coming season. Kinda tired of the shoot first mob mentality.
I feel more like the club has been a PR disaster for years than failing on the pitch, especially considering extenuating circumstances: stadium expansion, expansion drafts, CCL, injuries, COVID19, losing Ebobisse, probably more... I know I don't always give Gio and the coaching staff enough credit and it is easy to bag on GW and MP because they're dickheads.
I'd really like to start a season off on the right foot for once and I don't think this is our year. I get that losing Clark and presumably Blanco and/or Van Rankin are unexpected obstacles. At least with respect to Clark, it looks like the club is handling it fairly well, even if that is really underwhelming. Ivacic hasn't inspired me at all and I incline toward active dislike of Bingham. It is annoying that Attinella is still up in the air. Maybe we amnesty him? I have no idea how fit he even is at this point. I've heard rumors he's retiring and his family has moved back to Florida but Farley is being opaque about it. With Van Rankin, as with Moreira before, it sounds like we want to keep him and he wants to stay but his home club may want more money than we think he's worth or at least can afford.
The Blanco thing.... Yeah, he shouldn't be on a long-term DP contract at his age and it sounds like both parties were in agreement about a TAM contract, so either the amount, duration, or both are the sticking point. Or, perhaps Blanco would agree but didn't feel like he was being respected. It kind of sounded like the club was trying to pull one over on him with a bait and switch. That isn't the way you treat any player, much less one who has contributed so much. That said, losing both Blanco and Valeri could be for the best long-term, at least as far as our roster, strategy, and tactics go. Blanco isn't a 10 but has been the best option there. Valeri's deficiencies in pace, possession, and pressing limited us tactically. It might be better to not have all of our creativity in attack depend so much on one player. I like the idea of our attack as a swarm of bees and the interchange we saw toward the end of last year was hopefully an encouraging preview of that.
We really need to upgrade Mabiala and the club seems to be aware of that, as they've talked about trying and failing to sign a U-22 CB. The winter transfer window is always relatively slim picking and I know COVID19 has made it difficult to scout. Hopefully, we can hang on until summer or even next season. Summer doesn't give players much time to settle in for a late season run but we did okay last season. Ideally, Tuiloma and/or McGraw, or maybe one of the draft picks, will breakthrough and spare us the search and probably some money.
I agree with everything OP said about Niezgoda, Mora, Moreno, and Williamson.
It is also encouraging that Yimmi has been improving, Asprilla had a breakout season, Paredes seems to be returning to form, Loria looks surprisingly good, Bravo has settled in, and Bonilla shows promise. Whether those trends continue remains to be seen but those are all positives. Polo seemed to be performing better in midfield before his injury, so perhaps he can be a valuable contributor as well. Fochive didn't impress me but I remember when he looked relatively good before he left at the end of 2015, so perhaps he just needs some more time with the team to build some chemistry and such, though the league has undoubtedly improved over the past several years.
The new "T2" is set to start this season so some of our fringe players will finally get some competitive minutes and we'll have more resources for succession planning. Bodily might find some success converting to fullback. Perhaps Polo as well. Bodily in particular doesn't look like he's got the raw talent to perform well enough as an attacker but I could be wrong. Polo's issues may have been positional and/or mental. Right wing and central midfield are more crowded now but Williamson hasn't returned yet, Zambrano is gone, and there will be player absences for various reasons.
There also aren't really any players on the current squad that make me wonder, "What the hell are they still doing here?" Asprilla used to be that but shut that up last season. I could ask that question of McGraw and Bodily if I didn't expect them to get minutes with "T2" next season and Bodily being homegrown makes him low risk. There was a time when I wouldn't have been surprised if we moved on from Loria, Polo, and/or Paredes but they all showed enough in however many minutes they had last year that I don't mind their getting more time, especially Paredes.
So, I guess overall I'm underwhelmed and somewhat discouraged but don't feel hopeless. Putting things in context helps manage expectations as well.
I was feeling gloomy at first, but I've convinced myself that we should be fine, and ultimately I would expect us to be a playoff team - maybe top 5 in the West... assuming either Blanco stays or we replace him like for like (or as close to that as possible).
For every player we have arguably on the downward slide (Mabiala, Blanco, D.Chara) we have one or two coming back, and with a good chance of improving their play: Mora, Niezgoda, Moreno, Williamson, Paredes, Loria, Bravo. Even Tuiloma and Bonilla have room to grow. Ikobi looks promising. I think we know what we get with Y. Chara and Asprilla, and turns out they are both pretty good! And the guys we are worried about "slowing down" were playing lights out just two months ago.
Would I love to have kept Clark? You bet. Do I wish we could get Y.Chara and Blanco onto TAM contracts ASAP and snag two shiny new DPs? Definitely! But we have a good chance of starting 10 of our 11 players who started most playoff matches and MLS Cup - with what I think can be considered a fairly deep bench in this league. I'm feeling 7/10 right now.
I don't think if you replace Blanco you want a like-to-like replacement. Obviously, if you can get the intensity and carry the team on his back aspects sure, but from a positional standpoint, I think we could get someone who is more of a 10/CAM instead of a winger tucking inside.
Current feelings: https://i.imgflip.com/6167ce.jpg
Not feeling great tbh. Losing clark, van rankin, and blanco are gonna be huge losses. Especially if we replace them with ivacic, bonilla, and whoever else for blanco. Obviously the offseason isn't over, and I'm sure we'll make a couple signings. But if we're banking on in house guys to replace all the lost production from last year we're probably in for a long season
and we are laughing.gif
If Blanco comes back I’ll feel better and EW won’t be back for awhile I’m guessing. Honestly it feels like a second round exit to me
Honestly if we can keep Yimmi, Diego, Niezgoda, Moreno, Mora, and Erik healthy for the majority of the season I don't see why we wouldn't be a shoe in for conference champions 2022. That said, if we lose a locker room hero like Blanco I don't know if we even make the playoffs.