Timbers look to build after adding first four players

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By JOSE M. ROMERO

The Portland Timbers have their first four MLS players signed and in the books as the fledgling franchise's original quartet.

Timbers technical director Gavin Wilkinson introduced forward Bright Dike, midfield wing Ryan Pore, goalkeeper Steve Cronin and a surprise – former Austin Aztex forward Eddie Johnson – to the public and media in Portland Tuesday morning. 

Wilkinson and coach John Spencer wasted little time in signing the Timbers' first players. The USSF Division 2 playoffs ended for the Timbers only nine days ago. 

Wilkinson said he plans for the team to acquire 28 to 30 players, including Tuesday's four, through next month's expansion draft, the MLS Superdraft, international signings and allocation. He also said the Timbers expect to sign two more players from the USSF-2 Timbers, a midfielder and a central defender.

That could mean defender Mamadou "Futty" Danso is in the team's plans. Danso, 27, was recently called in by the Gambian national team for Africa Cup of Nations qualifying games. He was regarded by many as Portland's best defender in his two seasons with the lower-division team. 

The midfielder figures to be Kalif Alhassan, a native of Ghana who just turned 20 years old. He was on Ghana's U-20 national team and signed with the USSF-2 Timbers in August. 

Dike, 23, spent the entire season in Portland and played in 23 regular-season games. The 2010 first-round pick of the Columbus Crew out of Notre Dame landed in the Rose City and shined, scoring 10 goals in league games, plus four more in U.S. Open Cup matches and 15 in all competition.

Columbus relinquished its MLS rights to Dike for the 2011 season when he signed with the Timbers. 

"This has definitely been a blessing in disguise," Dike said of coming to Oregon. "I got so much more experience that was so invaluable."

Pore led USSF-2 in goals with 15 goals in league play. He has MLS experience as the 16th overall pick in the 2005 Superdraft by Kansas City, and spent four seasons with the Wizards (2005-2008). Pore was a lower-division Timber the past two seasons after getting a tryout with the Seattle Sounders in 2009.

"When I did get released by Kansas City it was a difficult time for me," Pore said. "I needed to get to an organization where I was going to play every day. It's all about confidence scoring goals. I'm confident in my abilities that it's going to translate to the next level."

Cronin, a veteran goalkeeper, was the 10th overall pick in the 2004 Superdraft and played in 30 games with the L.A. Galaxy from 2005 to 2008. He was the 2009 USL First Division Goalkeeper of the Year. He had 12 shutouts in 28 games this past season.

"He's another one that's going to be a valuable member to the squad next year," Spencer said of Cronin.

Johnson, a 26-year-old native of England, scored 23 goals in 133 matches as a pro in Europe, starting his career at age 17 in the Manchester United youth system. He caught Spencer's eye when Spencer was a Houston Dynamo assistant, and the Dynamo faced Johnson's Aztex in a preseason match in 2009. Johnson finished behind Pore in scoring in USSF-2 this season, with 14 goals in 26 games.

Johnson said he and his Austin teammates looked forward to playing Portland at raucous PGE Park, which is now being renovated for MLS play next spring. He was loaned to Austin by the Timbers and therefore is not an allocation selection. 

"Next year it's only going to be bigger and more exciting. I just can't wait to get started," he said.

What do you think of these signings? Impressed with the collection of forwards Portland has put together? Think Cronin can be one of the better goalkeepers in MLS?

This entry was posted in MLS- Expansion, MLS- Portland Timbers, USSF Division 2. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Timbers look to build after adding first four players

  1. BSU SC says:

    I was excited when I first saw the name Eddie Johnson…it turned out to be not quite what I had in mind.

  2. Brian says:

    Cronin effin sucked when he was with the Galaxy!

  3. Katatonia says:

    anyone wouldve looked like shiet in the net for that team

  4. ricx says:

    Cronin effin sucked because the Galaxy’s defense was effin putrid. if he’d have had a half-way decent backline ahead of him he could have been properly judged. hold off on judgment until 2011 if the Timbers have a good back 4.

  5. ERic says:

    Johnson was loaned to Austin by the Timbers? Not that I know of.

    (SBI-Yes, Portland traded for Johnson, then loaned him out in mid-season. Threwd move.)

  6. Michael says:

    Cronin played really well for DC United during the last season after the Timbers finished up. I doubt he will be our starter next season, and you could do much worse than cronin as your back up

  7. ERic says:

    Yep, he was. Finally found the info. Wow. Very well-kept secret.

  8. JoeW says:

    Yep, he did–he looked terrible. Then he played 2 seasons of USL and was outstanding both years. And then he played a month with DC United where DCU missed out on the playoffs by 1 point and Cronin was superb.

    There is a history of good USL keepers turning out to be good MLS keepers (see Houston for one example of that). I think Cronin was in over his head as a young, inexperienced player behind a bad defensive. Now that he’s got seasoning, he looks quite good.

  9. kyle says:

    Do you expect them to sign more than just the two others mentioned in the press conference? only taking 5 from the current rosters seems like a small amount considering the roster increase to 30 players.

  10. kyle says:

    will ian joy make the team?

  11. jloome says:

    Yeah, this one has actual football talent.

  12. Tk109 says:

    id like to see Marcelin make the jump as well. I thought he was a solid player. Goldwaithe might make it too.

  13. Kejsare says:

    In an interview with RSL’s GM [you can find at mlssoccer.com] he stated they’ve offered him a MLS contract.

  14. JoeW says:

    Actually, you could do worse than Cronin as your starting GK. Based on what I’ve seen of him in USL and then a month with DCU, when he’s in form, he’s in the upper half of MLS GKs.

  15. jts says:

    Portland is getting as quality finisher with great energy and a great soccer IQ. Good for them and he will be missed in Austin.

  16. Agulo says:

    This was when LA was Beckham and a bunch of nobodies.

  17. Pete says:

    I hope Cronin gets a real shot to be the #1 GK…Along with Gaudette, he is MLS-caliber. They can use the money for field players.

  18. Joseph D'Hippolito says:

    I thought Ronnie O’Brien was playing with the Timbers. What happened to him? Unless he had a falling out with management or his teammates, I thought he would be among the early signees.

  19. Ken says:

    Jose, are you doing SBI commentary on both the Timbers _AND_ the Sounders? Don’t you feel dirty? :-)

  20. Jose Romero says:

    Ken:
    I’m just happy I still have a forum where I can write about soccer! Exciting times for both teams.