How Adi Signing is a Short-Term Fix For Timbers

The Nigerian replaces Piquionne on loan, but forward depth still thin
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, May 16, 2014

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

One striker is coming in, one is leaving, and that’s triggering more questions than answers for the Portland Timbers.

The Timbers announced on Tuesday that they had signed Fanendo Adi on loan from F.C. København. The 23-year-old Nigerian had scored 3 times in nine appearances for the Danish Superliga side in 2013-14 after being transferred from Slovakian side AS Trencín last summer.

Portland also has an option to buy if Adi impresses enough in his loan spell. The Adi signing came about after Timbers General Manager Gavin Wilkinson saw him during a recent scouting trip to Denmark.

Leaving the Rose City, officially, is Frederic Piquionne. The 35-year-old Martinique striker was waived on Tuesday after being away from the club for the past few weeks due to a “family emergency”. But by the short, terse release that the Timbers put out in announcing Piquionne’s release, one could easily speculate that there is much more to his story than a family issue. In fact, Caleb Porter said after Wednesday’s training that Piquionne’s release was a “mutual decision” between the club and the player, unrelated to the emergency that required Piquionne to head home to Martinique.

While the Timbers did get younger up front, it doesn’t add to the lack of depth the club currently has. With Schillo Tshuma and Jose Valencia away on loan, Portland currently has just 4 forwards on the roster: Adi, Gastón Fernández, Maxi Urruti and Darlington Nagbe (who is actually listed as a forward/midfielder). With schedule congestion looming over the next few weeks, between a condensed MLS schedule and upcoming US Open Cup matches, the forwards will be tested in their endurance.

One thing that has been missing from the front line for Portland has been consistency. While Fernández leads the Timbers in scoring with 4 goals, and Urruti has 2, more often than not the ability to convert chances into goals has not been there. While much of the attention has been focused on a defensive corps that has been lacking in many areas, The Timbers have scored just 13 times in 10 matches. Only 42 of Portland’s 133 shots have been on goal, and there have been more shots from Diego Valeri and Will Johnson (50) than from all of Portland’s forwards, combined (45).

There have been moments, of course. All 4 of Fernández’ goals have either given the Timbers a rare lead or leveled a match (including his debut goal on opening night against Philadelphia). Urruti’s stoppage time goal against DC United game the Timbers their first win of the season. But for a front line that was supposed to benefit from the distribution ability of Valeri, Johnson and the now-injured Diego Chara, there hasn’t been much to celebrate overall.

That Nagbe still hasn’t scored in 2014 is a major concern. While he has been able to create at times for his teammates, the combination of the “Hack-A-Nagbe” strategy used by opposing clubs and the inability to convert what chances he gets into goals (10 shots, 4 shots-on-goal in 10 matches in 2014) is worrying. One gets the sense that when he finally scores, many more goals will follow, but it’s just getting that first one.

So, where does Adi fit in? He’s being described as a “target forward”, and he’s a big target at 6-4. He scored in his first match with FC København, but only twice afterward. The bulk of his success has been in the Slovakian 2nd Division at AS Trencín, with a few unremarkable stops in Ukraine in between. He scored 28 goals in 61 matches in his 3 seasons at Trencín, but only 5 at his 4 other clubs (Metalurh Donetsk, Dynamo Kyiv, Tavriya Simferopol and FC København).

But Adi is only 23, so he has plenty of soccer ahead of him. Bouncing around various Ukrainian clubs likely didn’t help his development, and that development needs to be accelerated if he is to find a steady job, whether with the Timbers, with København or somewhere else. A stint in MLS with Portland could help him develop faster than he has, and if he does, then that could raise the price that København could ask for from Portland and MLS for a permanent deal. But expect him to see the playing time Piquionne wasn’t getting, as his style might be a better fit than what Piquionne’s.

Adi may end up being the first of a series of forwards heading to Portland. There has been speculation that Wilkinson will be going after another forward, possibly as a Designated Player, when the summer transfer window opens in a few weeks. This may not sit well with some, as they see the continuing problems in the back and wonder why signings aren’t happening there. But with goalscoring at a premium, and schedule congestion picking up between MLS, the US Open Cup and, come August, the CONCACAF Champions League, giving Porter some flexibility up front will be a major help. Players can be rested as needed and Portland can adjust better than they can now.

But the expectations for Adi, and whomever is signed by the Timbers in the transfer window, will be high. They are expected to score goals, and if they don’t, then the pressure will be cranked up even more. The fans would be firing barbs at Wilkinson again, and this time, Porter might even feel some heat.

No question about it. The Timbers need a big return on Adi’s short-term loan. Or the playoffs become even further away from reach.

NEXT UP: May 17 – Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew, Providence Park, Portland, Ore. 10:30 p.m. EST, ROOT Sports NW.


Washington State
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Portland Timbers
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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.