Things you can find, Things you can touch, Things you might see differently while drunk, Things that you may not know the difference between....
Things an owner would say
Let's stick with things that you can find for right now, before shifting into "Do you know the difference between?"
More specifically, here we talk about player acquisition and development. Appropriately done, player acquisition is the lifeblood of a team. Inappropriately done with high contracts and poor player fit, it will hamstring a club for years.
Here's the ALL-TIME PORTLAND TIMBERS MLS PLAYERS list organized by position with notations as to whether they are still with the team and statistical total summary.
We will do it like this:
Player Name (alphabetically) - Current Status with Timbers - Where they are now
Adi - Timbers Player
Boyd - Not With Team - Rangers FC
Cooper - Not With Team - Seattle Sounders
Dike - Not With Team - Toronto FC
Fucito - Not With Team - San Jose Earthquakes
Eddie Johnson - Not With Team - Retired
Ryan Johnson - Not With Team - Henan Jianye (China)
Mwanga - Not With Team - NY Cosmos on loan from Colorado Rapids
Perlaza - Not With Team - Millionaires
Piquionne - Not With Team - US Creteil (Ligue 2)
Richards - Not With Team - Not with any team (physical rehabilitation)
Umony - Not With Team - Not with any team -
Urruti - Timbers Player
Valencia - Not With Team (despite what you may read) - Rosario Central
TOTALS: 14 players - 2 with team - 2 not playing any professional soccer - 1 retired- 63 goals scored
Note: Despite what the Timbers website might say, Darlington Nagbe and Gaston Fernandez very infrequently play as a true forward and therefore are included as midfielders. As well, Valencia is NOT with the team and Tshuma was on loan, which means that the Timbers had only 2 forwards for the second half of the 2014 season.
Alexander - Not With Team - Red Bull New York
Alhassan - Timbers Player
Braun - Not With Team - San Antonio Scorpions
Chará - Timbers Player
Fernández - Timbers Player
Jewsbury - Timbers Player
Will Johnson - Timbers Player
Lowry - Not With Team - Retired/Assistant Coach with St Mary's College
Marcelin - Not With Team - Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Moffat - Not With Team - FC Dallas
Nagbe - Timbers Player
Nanchoff - Timbers Player
Pore - Not With Team - Retired
Ring - Not With Team - Indy Eleven
Songo'o - Not With Team - PAS Giannina
Valeri - Timbers Player
Wallace - Timbers Player
Zakuani - Not With Team - Retired
Zemanski - Timbers Player
Zizzo - Not With Team - Sporting Kansas City
TOTALS: 18 players - 10 with team - 3 retired - 99 goals - 121 assists
Brunner - Not With Team - Houston Dynamo
Chabala - Not With Team - Not playing professional soccer
Danso - Not With Team - Motreal Impact
Goldthwaite - Not With Team - Retired
Hall - Not With Team - Wilmington Hammerheads on loan from Toronto FC
Harrington - Timbers Player
Horst - Not With Team - Houston Dynamo
Jean-Baptiste - Not With Team -Chivas USA AKA Dispersal Draft Player
Kah - Timbers Player
Kimura - Not With Team - Red Bull New York
McKenzie - Timbers Player
Miller - Not With Team - Retired
Mosquera - Not With Team - Aguilas Doradas
O'Rourke - Timbers Player
Palmer - Not With Team - Chicago Fire
Paparatto - Timbers Player
Powell - Timbers Player (on loan from Portmore United)
Purdy - Not With Team - Retired
Ridgewell - Timbers Player
Silvestre - Not With Team - Chennaiyin FC
Smith - Not With Team - Rangers FC
Villafaña - Timbers Player
TOTALS: 22 players - 8 with team - 2 retired - 1 not playing any professional soccer
Bendik - Not With Team - Toronto FC
Brown - Not With Team - Retired
Gleeson - Timbers Player
Kocic - Not With Team - Retired
Perkins - Not With Team - Montreal Impact
Ricketts - Timbers Player
Weber - Timbers Player
TOTALS: 7 players - 3 players still with team - 2 retired
SIGNED BUT NEVER PLAYED A MINUTE IN MLS:
Evans - Timbers Player
Fehr - Not With Team - SC Sagamihara
Fochive - Timbers Player
Gallego - Timbers Player
HOGG- Not With Team - Metro AFC
Kawulok - Not With Team - No Team
Long - Not With Team - Seattle Sounders
Lopez - Not With Team - Sacramento Republic
Peay - Timbers Player
Renken - Not With Team - Arizona United
Rincón - Not With Team (ON LOAN) - Tigre
Taylor - Not With Team - No team
Thompson - Not With Team - No team
Tucker-Gangnes - Not With Team - Retired
Tshuma - Timbers Player
TOTALS: 15 players - 5 with team - 3 not playing any professional soccer - 1 retired
MLS TOTALS OVER FOUR SEASONS:
76 different players - 28 still with the team - 9 retired - 6 not playing any professional soccer
Both the defense and forward position are a wasteland of jettisoned contracts over the last four years. The defense only retained 8 players for four positions moving 14 to other teams. Meanwhile the forward position only has two players left (unless you count rookie Tshuma) having moved 12 to other teams/destinations. These numbers reflect those players who played at least one minute in the MLS regular season, for obvious reasons.
The best value for the Timbers has clearly been in the midfield which has scored a whopping 99 of the 189 goals scored by the Timbers over the last 4 seasons.
Given that the Timbers have had a poor defense for 3 of the 4 seasons that they have played in MLS, this continuing acquisition/divestment of players in that category is hardly surprising. The worry is that after four years, the Timbers haven't, yet, found consistency in the back line. As well, I would anticipate that there will be more losses either from contract negotiations, expansion draft, or players not making the cut to the back line numbers in 2015.
The midfield numbers could, as well, see some change in the 2014 offseason with some players getting older and more likely to not be protected in the expansion draft as well as others retiring.
These names and numbers will be important to track, going forward as a measure of the front office success in acquiring talent and putting them in a position to succeed.
48 players lost over 4 seasons is an average of 12 per season. That means that for better or worse, the Timbers have turned over nearly half of their available lineup every season with virtually the same results, excepting one season (2013).
In 2012, the same year they fired him, the Timbers front office gave a 3 year extension to John Spencer.
Before we start throwing around that this is a big deal that the Timbers add/remove that many players from their 30 every year, lets look at some things.
Is that a big deal? Does anyone know? I mean, I'd like to know if that makes a difference. It seems like something that could make a difference. It seems that every year I hear that roster stability is the key to success but I'd rather have the numbers to back that information up than relying on hearsay.
Well, here's the information...
Here's some of the player acquisition numbers over the past 4 seasons for a number of teams. First we have the best and worst teams for the past 4 seasons. (I picked 4 seasons because that is how long PTFC have been in the league)
Seattle - 1st in MLS - 19 players acquired 17 players let go
Montreal - 19th in MLS - 16 players acquired 14 players let go
Red Bull New York - 1st in MLS - 21 players acquired 20 players let go
DC United - 19th in MLS - 14 players acquired 12 players let go
San Jose - 1st in MLS - 7 players acquired 4 players let go
Toronto FC - 19th in MLS - 16 players acquired 18 players let go
LA Galaxy - 1st in MLS - 14 players acquired 10 players let go
Vancouver - 18th in MLS - Expansion team, all players technically new/let go
So if anything, one can say that somehow the team that won the Supporters Shield in 2014 and in 2012 had dramatically different methods of player acquisition.
Seattle picked up 19 players and four of those brand new players were in the top 10 of total minutes for the team in the same year they were acquired. Five of the 19 had over 1000 minutes and Kenny Cooper was only 11 minutes away from joining that party.
San Jose picked up 7 players and two of them had meaningful minutes for the team with only one player of those two making the top 10 in total minutes on the team.
Ok, but you you might say that most of those numbers seemingly defy any kind of pattern and to that I will say, well... yeah.
For example, a comparison in number of acquisitions, number of minutes played for the best and the worst team in the league in 2014.
Player name: Minutes -- Salary as reported by MLS players union (these are not exact numbers)
Seattle 2014 acquired player numbers:
Frei : 3060 -- $150,000
Marshall : 2790 -- $286,666.67
Cooper : 989 -- $265.625
Kovar : 25 -- 48,700
Okoli : 19 -- 48,750
Barrett : 867 -- 85,000
Bowen : 60 -- 70,000
Anibaba : 1283 -- 159,620
Lowe : 0 -- 68,500
Pappa : 1931 -- 75,000
Ockford : 0 -- 36,504
Pineda : 2233 -- 80,000
Azira : 606 -- 51,147.54
Weaver: 31 -- 49004.00
Parsemain : 0 -- 54,486.81
Long : 0 -- 36504.00
Apam : 0 -- 60,000
TOTAL MONEY SPENT = 1.62 million
and then we have
Montreal 2014 acquired player numbers:
Miller : 1646 -- 68,500
Gonzalez : 80 -- 50,000
Pearce : 1822 -- 100,000
McInerney : 1804 -- 294,166.67
Nakajima-Farran : 540 -- 110,000
Danso : 231 -- 87,500
Larrea : 428 -- 48,500
Krol : 961 -- 153,000
Piatti : 450 -- 387,500
Gagnon-Lapare : -- 40,504
Duka : 1023 -- 190,000
Jackson-Hamel : 132 -- 36,504
Soriola: 0 -- 120,000
Beland-Goyette : 15 -- 36,504
Bissue: 0 -- 48,500
TOTAL MONEY SPENT - 1.7 million (this is cap hit as Piatti costs more due to his DP status)
So based on this small sample size the key isn't exactly "spending more money" than the other folks (although having the resources to do so certainly helps). I mean none of us regular folks are privy to the actual numbers paid to the players but we can simply estimate based on the numbers the players union releases.
Ok, so what other pieces of information do we have.
How about player acquisition numbers for some of the teams that either won MLS cup over the years and/or perennially made the playoffs?
2014 -- IN 9 OUT 10
2013 -- IN 8 OUT 12
2012 -- IN 9 OUT 13
2011 -- IN 14 OUT 10
Sporting Kansas City
2014 -- IN 10 OUT 10
2013 -- IN 11 OUT 11
2012 -- IN 12 OUT 12
2011 -- IN 15 OUT 12
Real Salt Lake
2014 -- IN 7 OUT 9
2013 -- IN 13 OUT 9
2012 -- IN 9 OUT 5
2011 -- IN 9 OUT 6
2014 -- IN 19 OUT 17
2013 -- IN 13 OUT 15
2012 -- IN 16 OUT 17
2011 -- IN 10 OUT 7
LA won the cup in two straight years by signing the most and one of the least amount of players over five years, while the year that KC won MLS cup was one of the lower acquisition years the team had in the last four seasons.
There appears to be no evidence in the past 4 seasons with information from many of the clubs in MLS that turning over your roster is necessarily a bad thing. The issue is, as always, that good acquisitions will make your team better and bad acquisitions will make your team worse. The same could be said about keeping poor talent on your roster or overpaying for mediocre talent. If this is done repeatedly then the issue becomes the fact that the people in charge don't know what they are doing.
I say that again, if there is a problem in acquiring talent and making it mesh this is a front office and coaching staff problem. There is seemingly no problem with amassing talent, only the wrong talent and the wrong coach/system. SEE: Real Madrid with the right manager versus Real Madrid with the wrong manager.
There is, sadly, a gulf of talent between (for example) Rauwshan McKenzie and Nat Borchers. There is also a gap of about 188,143 in pay. This is, however, not a direct comparison. The problem comes from the issue that Borchers played 2856 for Salt Lake in defense where the highest minutes winner for the Timbers defense in 2014 was now deposed left back/right back Michael Harrington with 1749.
Basically the highest minute getting defensive player for the Timbers in 2014 played half the minutes that Nat Borchers played for Real Salt Lake. By the end of the season, the Timbers defensive minutes were upside down with Harrington and Kah being the highest two players getting minutes with Jorge Villafana sneaking in there to break up a sandwich between "timbers players that don't start with the highest minutes" with Jack Jewsbury right behind him.
It seems that the Timbers issue is not exactly all about stability and more about having players playing that aren't starting level quality. When the players regress to the mean, the Timbers then either search for a replacement after the fact or rotate through other players til they get a result and then they stick with that player. Perhaps Harrington's performance in 2014 wouldn't be so stilted if he had a better defensive player over him than Steve Zakuani, Kalif Alhassan and Gaston Fernandez. After all, when the Timbers played at their best in the last four seasons (2013) their leaders in minutes were their starting LB, their starting GK, their starting midfielders, and their starting RB (along with a CB they subsequently traded). So as you can see there is an argument to be made that stability is good, but stability is only good if the players are, also, good. Giving Pa Modou Kah 3465 minutes over two years with hugely varied results is probably an indication that you haven't found a stable back line with reliable players, yet. As well, paying him $245,000 to sit on the bench in a salary capped league is, to be very honest, very close to insanity.
Smart ownership has a way of signing good talent, turning over the roster, getting rid of problem players and working with the coaching staff to finesse the roster to perfection. Poor ownership is reactionary and sign with limited success leading to fluctuations in talent level and results.