Looking Back at the Urruti-Dike Trade, 1 Year Later

Urruti makes first trip to Toronto since the deal that sent him to Portland
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, September 26, 2014

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

The trip to play Toronto FC in BMO Field on Saturday is a chance for the Portland Timbers to see a familiar face, and to revisit a trade that’s helped the Timbers greatly.

For all of the criticism that Portland General Manager Gavin Wilkinson receives from the club’s fans, the trade he made with Toronto last September has become one of his best. Even if, at the time, the move raised a few eyebrows.

That was the Sept. 9, 2013 trade that sent popular Timbers forward Bright Dike, a 2015 SuperDraft pick and allocation money to TFC for Maxi Urruti. Toronto had played in Portland two days before (a 4-0 Timbers win), and Urruti didn’t play for the Reds.

In fact, Urruti only played two matches for Toronto, coming on as a sub in both, in the three weeks after being signed by the Reds from Argentina Primera División club Newell’s Old Boys. That, after a saga that actually began in the 2013 preseason.

The hope for Toronto was that Dike would stay healthy and show the goal scoring talent that made him such a fan favorite in Portland. Meanwhile, in Portland, fans weren’t sure what they were getting, other than Toronto spent a lot of time and energy trying to get him into MLS and that he joined Diego Valeri as Argentines on the Timbers.

To say much has happened since the trade would be an understatement. And that the Maxi Urruti that TFC fans will see Saturday is the one that was sold to them by former Toronto GM Kevin Payne during the months that the Reds were trying to get the transfer with Newell’s done. He is tied with Valeri for the team lead in MLS goals with 9 and has scored in all three CONCACAF Champions League matches for Portland. He’s also become half of a potent tandem with Fanendo Adi that has become a scoring force for the Timbers.

Unfortunately for Toronto, the Bright Dike that they have seen is the one that Timbers fans were too familiar with. After starting the final five matches for TFC in 2013, including a goal scored, he tore his Achilles during training on February 17. That was the second time in three years that Dike had torn an Achilles in preseason training, and it delayed what was seen as a possible breakout season for him. It also prevented him from possibly playing for Nigeria in the World Cup, adding to the disappointment of the injury.

Dike made his return to the Reds lineup, much quicker than expected, on August 16. He played 12 minutes in a 4-1 loss at Sporting Kansas City. His other appearance since was seven minutes in Toronto’s 1-0 loss at Philadelphia on September 3. He hasn’t been named to the matchday 18 since, and his future with the club beyond this year is a bit of a mystery.

The directions that Portland and Toronto have been heading recently are quite opposite, much like the fortunes of Urruti and Dike. After a slow start, the Timbers are currently in the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, two points up on Vancouver and still hoping to make a run at FC Dallas in fourth. Portland has lost just once in their last 10 matches overall and are coming off of two impressive wins, a 3-0 home triumph over Vancouver last Saturday that put them back in the final playoff spot and an easy 6-0 home win over Alpha United on Tuesday night that put them on top of Group 5 in the CONCACAF Champions League.

A win in Toronto for the Timbers keeps the Whitecaps behind them. It also puts pressure on Dallas, who are off this weekend after hosting Seattle on Wednesday, to keep winning to make sure the season finale with Portland in Frisco isn’t for home field in the 4/5 knockout round match.

TFC, on the other hand, sits in seventh in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Columbus for the final Eastern playoff spot and coming off a 3-0 win on Saturday over Chivas USA that broke a six-match winless streak. That run dropped the Reds from a playoff contender to a playoff hopeful, which makes Saturday’s match with Portland crucial if Toronto wants to keep their goal of a postseason appearance within reach.

So, the Urruti-Dike trade is looking like the clubs who made them. Urruti, like the Timbers, started the season not following through on numerous opportunities, but has become steadier and better as of late. Dike, much like Toronto, went into the preseason with high hopes, but now is just hoping to finish the season on a positive note.

Portland, right now, looks like the runaway winner of the Urruti-Dike trade. A year on, Maxi Urruti is becoming the player that Wilkinson and Caleb Porter hoped for, and that Payne and Toronto was saying he’d become when they were trying to get him out of Argentina. He may not be a consistent starter, but he’s becoming an impact player.

Bright Dike, on the other hand, is coming back from another major injury and is trying to save a career that has so much potential. He’s trying to get back into the TFC lineup, but he’s only seen limited minutes since he returned.

In the end, Timber fans are thankful for the deal. TFC fans, though, can only wonder what could have been.

NEXT UP: September 27 – Portland Timbers vs. Toronto FC, BMO Field, Toronto, Ont. 1:00 p.m. EST, ROOT Sports NW.

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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