Fresh off busy week, Portland still hunting for attacker

Gavin Wilkinson

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With another active week of wheeling and dealing under his belt, it was a player that Portland Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson didn’t comment on who turned heads in the Rose City.

Reports surfaced Thursday that the Timbers were close to snagging Norwegian-American Mikkel Diskerud, who last month scored his first goal for the US national team and played for new Timbers coach Caleb Porter with the US Under-23s in their failed Olympic qualifying campaign.

Wilkinson, however, refused to comment about the rumors in a phone conversation with MLSsoccer.com.

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He did confirm that he and Porter are actively targeting an attacking midfielder to go along with the myriad moves that have already been accomplished since the MLS offseason officially started on Dec. 3.

The most recent acquisitions – in addition to last week’s trades for proven veterans in midfielder Will Johnson and defender Michael Harrington – were bringing aboard Jamaican international forward Ryan Johnson and goalkeeper Milos Kocic in a trade with Toronto FC.

“We’ll be looking to put pressure on players we currently have on the squad to raise the bar,” Wilkinson said.

Johnson, who played collegiately at Oregon State University, is a six-year veteran who scored seven goals and recorded five assists for Toronto last season. He joins a crowded group of forwards, which includes Designated Player Kris Boyd, emerging target man Bright Dike and the recently re-signed Danny Mwanga, also an OSU grad.

“In all honesty, it’s a situation where Johnson can play in a 4-4-2, he can play in a 4-3-3, he can play a number of different forward positions,” Wilkinson said. “So with him, we’ve just added another quality piece.”

Wilkinson said Kocic was brought aboard to push starting ‘keeper Donovan Ricketts and promising youngster Jake Gleeson.

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Of course, bringing aboard a player of Diskerud’s caliber would be the icing on the cake as the team rebuilds in the aftermath of last season’s disappointing finish. Due to Diskerud’s status as a national team player, he would have to go through the MLS Allocation process. Part of Wednesday’s trade with Toronto included moving up to the No. 2 spot in the allocation order, thanks to a trade with Chivas USA.

“An attacking midfielder who is creative and can dictate play is definitely a position we’re targeting,” Wilkinson said.

In addition to a midfielder, Wilkinson said the team is also eyeing a fullback to play opposite Harrington, who is slated to slot into the left back position.

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at dcitel@hotmail.com.