By JOSE M. ROMERO
A recent trip to Portland was all it took to see even some semblance of enthusiasm for the soon-to-be MLS Portland Timbers.
There were a couple of billboards in town. And at Fred Meyer, a variety store chain, Timbers scarves, T-shirts and beanies were for sale. The marketing arm of the club is doing its job.
The player personnel department is also working hard. Portland got off to a fast start building its roster with its first four player signings in October. A month later came the week of the expansion draft, and the Timbers were wheeling and dealing.
First came a trade with the New York Red Bulls, a third-round Superdraft pick for defender-midfieder Jeremy Hall. Then a deal with the L.A. Galaxy for an international player roster spot in exchange for allocation money.
That was two days before the expansion draft. On that day, Portland selected its 10 players, then after three trades — two involving players and allocation money — ended up with eight new players. Only one, Robbie Findley, is a true forward.
Clearly the team addressed a need for defense and defensive midfielders while keeping an eye toward the future in acquiring Superdraft picks. Technical director Gavin Wilkinson and coach John Spencer have more in store, with its added international player spot soon to be filled by a central midfielder or foreign striker with experience.
The Timbers signed attacking players in October and added fast, athletic and versatile defensive-minded players in November while managing to stay fairly young as a whole. Here's a look at their current roster:
Forward Eddie Johnson — Former Man. U. youth system player finished second in USSF-2 in goals last season while on loan to Austin Aztex.
Forward Bright Dike — Big, physical striker was a major find for Portland after Columbus Crew, who chose him in 2010 Superdraft first round, gave up on Dike.
Forward Robbie Findley — If he is persuaded to stay in MLS and not try his luck in Europe, U.S. World Cup team veteran and former Oregon State star could bolster Timbers' offense. Won MLS Cup with Real Salt Lake in 2009.
Midfielder Ryan Pore — USSF-2 scoring leader in 2010 has four seasons of MLS experience. He'll be an attacking midfielder on the wing, presumably, for Spencer.
Midfielder Adam Moffat — A central and holding midfielder from Scotland who has played in big games with the Columbus Crew.
Midfielder Peter Lowry — Holding midfielder and attacker who won't cost the Timbers much. Scored five goals in 24 games over three seasons with Chicago Fire.
Defender-midfielder Rodney Wallace — Timbers must think very highly of former D.C. United player, because they traded a quality expansion pick in Dax McCarty for him. Thirty-six starts over two seasons in D.C. with three goals and five assists.
Defender-midfielder Jonathan Bornstein –Bound for Mexico's Primera Division, but if it doesn't work out down there, could be worth the gamble.
Defender-midfielder Jeremy Hall — Former Generation adidas player battled injury last season, but was a starter for Red Bulls early in 2010.
Defender Jordan Graye — Right back who started 20 games for D.C. United last season as a rookie.
Defender David Horst — Wilkinson knows Horst from USL/USSF-2 days when Horst did a good job locking down Dike for the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Defender Eric Brunner — 6-4 central defender chosen from Crew will get shot to start for Portland.
Goalkeeper Steve Cronin — Has four-plus seasons of MLS experience and it looks like he'll be the man between the posts after the past two years spent with the former lower-division Timbers.