Expansion Means Opportunity For Some Timbers

One’s level of play now could lead to chances at NYCFC, Orlando City and now Atlanta
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, April 18, 2014

Green Logs - a column on the Portland Timbers & the Portland soccer scene

It may be April, but now is the time where players and coaches already begin to think about 2015.

No, it’s not the 6-match winless streak that the Portland Timbers are on. It’s much too soon for that.

However, 2015 means expansion once again takes place in MLS. That means thinking about protected lists, impressing scouts and hoping to show enough that the coaching staffs at New York City FC and Orlando City will think about choosing you, if you end up being unprotected.

This will be the first time in 3 years that expansion will take place. When Montreal came into the league in 2012, the Timbers were just coming off of their first MLS season. Gavin Wilkinson and John Spencer had to decide who was important enough to keep, while at the same time knowing the Impact likely wouldn’t select anyone because of a previous deal involving Ryan Pore.

The former Timber, who became a fan favorite in the last D-2 season in 2010, was loaned to Montreal for their last D-2 season in 2011 (and, as it turned out, Pore’s last season as a professional). That deal not only ensured that the Impact wouldn’t choose a Timbers player in the expansion draft, but Montreal got an international slot from Portland, as well.

That list of 11 players is quite fascinating to see. The protected players were Kalif Alhassan, Eric Brunner, Diego Chara, Kenny Cooper, Futty Danso, David Horst, Jack Jewsbury, Lovel Palmer, Troy Perkins, Jorge Perlaza and Rodney Wallace. Because he was a Generation Adidas player, Darlington Nagbe was automatically protected and not required to be put on the list.

The players who weren’t protected is an interesting group. Bright Dike and Jake Gleeson were among the unprotected, but because of the Pore deal, the club knew they would be back in 2012.

Portland may not be so lucky this time. With 2 expansion teams coming in, the possibility that the Timbers could lose at least 1 player, maybe more, is very real. While one can probably guess most of the 11 that will be initially protected, there will always be a few surprises.

So for those on the Timbers who might not see much playing time, the moments when they are on the field are doubly important. Not only are they trying to impress Caleb Porter enough to get more playing time when the need arises, but, in a sense, they are trying to impress Jason Kreis and the NYCFC staff, along with Adrian Heath and the Orlando City scouts.

Of course, there will be opportunities for players to show off their talents. Filling in for injured starters, like Andrew Weber, or loan spells in USL Pro, much like Jake Gleeson in Sacramento and Taylor Peay at Orange County. The CONCACAF Champions League, which starts in August, may also be a good time for players who might not be protected to shine, as lists of possible expansion picks start being developed.

Who is safe? One should probably figure the big names like Nagbe, Diego Valeri (Portland’s only Designated Player), Will Johnson, Diego Chara, Donovan Ricketts and Michael Harrington will be on a protected list. If recent Generation Adidas players are again protected, then Schillo Tshuma isn’t going anywhere (and won’t take up a spot on the list).

If the rules are the same for the 2015 expansion draft as they were in 2011 and 2012, then the Timbers must protect 3 of their international players. Assuming Valeri (Argentina), Chara (Colombia) and Ricketts (Jamaica) would be among those protected, the list of those who could be left exposed to the draft could be quite interesting. That would be especially true for players who have had rough start, can’t get back into the starting lineup or aren’t able to bring their game back to where it’s expected.

Salary considerations may also come into play when making selections. A player making $87,000 in 2014 might be more likely to be chosen than a similar player making $245,000, just to ensure space under the salary cap. Thus, Portland players on the lower end of the salary scale will have much more to play for, as it could mean new opportunities and proving their “value”.

All of this will play out again in 2 years, when Atlanta comes into MLS. If David Beckham’s group can get the stadium situation in Miami figured out, they could be coming in for 2017 or 2018, meaning another draft. And one more expansion team should be announced by then, bringing MLS to the 24 clubs that commissioner Don Garber has stated he wants the league to be at.

As Porter juggles lineups to try and end the horrid start that the Timbers have had, there will be plenty of chances for players to prove that they should be staying in Portland, or to show NYCFC and OCSC that they can play at the MLS level. Opportunities now could lead to greater opportunities later.

And if the Timbers can get back on track and start winning again, even better.

NEXT UP: April 19 – Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah. 9:30 p.m. EST, KPTV (Oregon/SW Washington), MLS Live.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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