CARSON, Calif. – When Bright Dike crashed through the LA Galaxy penalty area to knock home a thunderous 15-yard header 10 minutes into Tuesday’s friendly at the Home Depot Center, it meant more than just a 1-0 lead for his Portland Timbers. It also meant the big forward was finally, mercifully healthy – and more than willing to throw his weight around to prove it.
“It feels great to actually feel healthy and play in a game – playing in a game and not worrying about my Achilles [tendon],” Dike told MLSsoccer.com after his side’s dominant 4-1 preseason win over the defending Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup champions. "The whole team’s working really hard and it’s showing right now.”
Dike was able to leave his mark on the game not only with the goal, but with his physical play all over the pitch.
Whether it was battling for headers in the box or holding the ball up at midfield, he put in the donkey work that every team wants to see out of their center forward.
“Every coach is gonna look at me and say, ‘You better be able to hold up the ball,’” Dike said with a laugh afterward. “It’s not even a question. That’s my main focus and other things will follow.”
What followed his strong effort against the Galaxy was a pat on the back and some words of praise from coach John Spencer, who’s happy to have Dike back and ready to go.
“He’s persevered and worked so very hard,” Spencer told MLSsoccer.com. “And he’s actually come back from this offseason about 14 or 15 pounds lighter. So you can see he’s really putting his life and soul into this Portland Timbers adventure, and hopefully we’ll see him come back and score some more goals for the first team this year.”
The big forward’s preseason debut was a polar opposite of 2011’s, in which he ruptured his right Achilles tendon. Despite making it back to play a bit part down the stretch last autumn, Dike said he never really felt like himself.
“I was never fully fit,” Dike explained. “I was always a little bit thinking about my Achilles, always running after practice a little bit. A lot of that is gone – all of that is gone out of my head now. So now it’s just, you know, staying healthy and fit, and I pray to God it stays that way. Attitude’s good and everything working right so far.”