There is a race car driver. He starts small. First he works with go-carts and then he manages to work his way up to drag racing. Somehow he scrapes together enough money for a small garage to keep all his old cars, starting with the go-karts (which he sells to buy more parts for his new racing classes) and then eventually his drag race car. Eventually this guy makes it big, he moves up to racing trucks, then track, then formula one.
Yet, he keeps his drag race vehicle because that power entices him, it reminds him of where he came from. Every once in a while he takes it out, but when he does... it breaks down. Then he has to pay and wait for it to get fixed, with each time it is out being longer than the time before.
Eventually he realizes that he can't hold on to the past anymore and no matter how much money he sinks into the care and rehab of this vehicle... it is time to move on. At one point he needed power, he needed straight line ability and bruising speed. Now he needs vehicles for curves, with grace and power, something with increased skill.
This is Portland right now. We are moving on from the era of punt and pray into the era of tactical nuances and skill.
Bright Dike is a Portland Timber. He is a hard worker, a tireless rehab machine, a from all accounts a great guy. He gets it, he understands Portland, and he feels the pain that we the fans feel when the team doesn't perform well.
This, however, is a business with a limit on the amount of people you can keep on a roster, and Dike represents a hold over from the era of Spencer ball in which skills were minimized and the ability to bash was favored. Even then, Dike couldn't stay healthy enough to really build up a head of steam with his best run of form in MLS happening in late 2012 when the team had effectively given up and been beaten into submission.
Dike underwent surgery on February 11, 2013 for a torn left ACL
Dike had an Achilles tendon rupture in August of 2012
Dike had an Achilles tendon injury in February of 2011
During the 2010 season Dike was a force for the Timbers. He scored 14 goals in 27 appearances across all competitions and really revived the Timbers season. He had a hat trick against the Kitsap Pumas in the second round of the US Open Cup. I remember the electricity of Dike from 2010 even as I listened to games on the radio and watched them on terrible web streams. The kid was big, tough and gave the Timbers something special. The problem though is how does one fit into a system. Dike is not a pass and move guy, he is a punt and pray guy. He represents the idiom of "round peg, square hole" for this iteration of the Timbers.
Dike doesn't really work in a two man Timbers front line for a number of reasons. Firstly, while a decent power player, Dike doesn't have the necessary touch to play the system that Porter wants his forwards to play. As well, with the personnel that the Timbers currently have they lack the dominant CDM midfielder to play a 4-4-2 diamond formation or flat formation with two wide players who can make the system work. The Timbers play a system where Will Johnson and Diego Chara play off each other in the middle of the field in a 4-2-3-1 or rather a 4-3-3 on attack.
As well, Dike and Valencia occupy the same space, the same idea except that Valencia is younger with a history of only one major injury instead of three. He represents technique and power, touch and pace, and is, even with all these intangibles, STILL unrefined which lends itself to a ton of upside.
Dike and Johnson don't work because Johnson wants to press, to disrupt, to play as a midfielder from the forward position. Johnson is really an inverted central midfielder who tries to get far up field and keep the ball in the other teams half. He plays off of wing play, off the ability of other players to cut in and interchange. Johnson runs his heart out for 90 minutes just to try to get others involved in the system.
The question really is whether you want the Timbers to play the style of pump balls into the box from the wing, cause chaos and get bodies scrambling around for goals or the pass, slice, and death by a million paper cuts style of this year. Because if the answer is number two... then Dike is not your answer at forward regardless of formation.
This is not, though, to bury Dike but to praise him. He is a player of which you can be proud. He may not be the footballer that Porter needs, but his attitude throughout his career has been more than exemplary. His run in 2012 shows that there is certainly a place for his skills somewhere in MLS.
Personally, I'll always remember when the Timbers Army saluted him during his post-game interview after a great performance and goals. I'll remember his smile when he could hear his name being chanted by the thousands of people that were clearly behind him.
We love Dike because he never quits, we love Dike because he goes 100% into everything whether it is a game, practice, or rehab. Sadly, in the last three years, it has been more rehab than playing. Sadly, in the last three years, it has been more for his attitude than his aptitude.
This doesn't lessen our appreciation of his contributions to the Timbers, rather it makes us appreciate him more. Because there is the fact that you can guarantee that Bright Dike gave everything he could to play well for the Timbers.
Bright Dike is one of us.
One of Us.
One of Us.
Bright Dike is one of us.
He's a Timber.
Good luck, Bright.
If you feel so inclined, share you "Brightest" moments in the comments.