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By IVES GALARCEP
The Portland Timbers continue to re-shape their roster under new head coach Caleb Porter as they are ready to make another major deal to add some quality veterans to a squad with its share of young talent.
The Timbers and Toronto FC are set to complete a trade that will send Jamaican forward Ryan Johnson and Milos Kocic to Portland for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 MLS Draft, goalkeeper Joe Bendik and allocation money, sources have confirmed to SBI. The trade is expected to be announced later today.
The trade gives the Timbers an athletic and versatile forward in Johnson, who finished 2012 with seven goals and five assists. The Jamaican international is well-suited to feature in the 4-3-3 system Portland is expected to implement under Porter. Johnson can play both as a target forward as well as a left forward.
The trade leaves Toronto FC with two of the top three picks in the 2013 MLS Draft, though sources tell SBI that Toronto is shopping the No. 1 overall pick. Louisville centerback Andrew Farrell is the consensus No. 1 pick, which has helped boost interest in acquiring the top pick.
With Farrell and U.S. Under-20 and Furman centerback Walker Zimmerman widely-regarded as the top two prospects in the draft, the N0. 3 pick is less of a sure thing, but sources tell SBI that Toronto FC is also interested in drafting Coastal Carolina striker Ashton Bennett, a speedy forward who also holds Canadian residency status. Bennett makes plenty of sense, though Toronto could be tempted to grab Zimmerman if he slips past Chivas USA, which is the real wild card in the early part of the draft.
TFC head coach Paul Mariner could choose to keep the No. 1 pick and select Farrell, an athletic, technically gifted and versatile centerback who many teams feel can step in and contribute from day one. It should be noted that the 2013 MLS Draft will be Mariner’s first in charge of Toronto’s drafting strategy. During his time as New England assistant coach, Mariner was credited with being the brains behind an impressive string of drafting success for the Revolution.
Trading the team’s first-round draft pick seems counter-intuitive for a Portland side led by a new head coach coming from the college ranks, but the lack of true pro-ready options at the top of the draft likely led Porter to decide trading the pick for a proven commodity like Johnson was more practical than keeping the pick and choosing from players such as VCU’s J.J. Johnson and Central Florida’s DeShorn Brown, two Generation adidas targets projected to go near the top of the draft.
Portland also receives a solid back-up goalkeeper in Kocic, who had some strong periods of time in goal for TFC, though he also had some shaky moments. Moving to the Timbers will reunite Kocic with Timbers goalkeeper coach Mike Toshak, who coached Kocic when he was TFC’s goalkeeper coach from 2009 to 2011.
With Stefan Frei back from knee surgery and expected to start, Kocic was deemed surplus to requirements and sent packing. That leaves Toronto with Freddy Hall as the team’s back-up, though sources tell SBI the club is working on a move to add a new back-up goalkeeper.
What do you think of the trade? Like the idea of TFC having two of the top four picks? Think Portland got enough for the No. 3 overall pick?
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