BEAVERTON, Ore. – It's no secret that there are some interested observers watching over the Portland Timbers these days.
And the most interested will be future head coach Caleb Porter, who's seeing out his final season with Akron before taking over in the Rose City this winter. So while the playoffs may be out of the question for the Timbers, there's no shortage of motivation for the team's players to show well as they play out the final stretch of their disappointing season.
Forward Bright Dike has taken that to heart.
"To be honest, I think most of the guys have felt that way, not just me," Dike told MLSsoccer.com after Tuesday's training session, coming off a two-game road trip that ended with a tie against San Jose and a loss to Real Salt Lake. "I mean, these are the first early years of our team, and I think everybody has felt that from Day 1. And I don't think that's changed really."
WATCH: Dike nearly the hero vs. RSL
Since returning to the team in early August after being on loan for two months to USL Pro side LA Blues, the bruising striker has three goals in eight games. His most recent was after coming on in the second half of the Timbers' 2-1 loss Saturday against RSL, and he nearly evened the game in the 85th minute, but his header attempt banged off the goalpost.
"It's good, but like I've said earlier, the difference between me having three and me having six is a couple inches," said Dike, who banged the upright vs. Seattle two minutes into stoppage time two weekends ago, then pushed his shot wide on a breakaway three minutes into stoppage time in San Jose last Wednesday. "I've hit a couple crossbars, had a couple near misses.
"So I'm just trying to get that focus and keep learning from that and just keep it going hopefully. I definitely think they'll start falling for me at some point because I've been working hard on that and I think my accuracy will only get better. I've just got to keep working at it."
Dike's improved play couldn't be coming at a better time, either. With the absence of Designated Player Kris Boyd, who may miss the remainder of the season after injuring his hamstring against San Jose, Dike will seemingly be provided even more opportunity to continue to impress his new boss.
In the meantime, he's impressed the staff who are still calling the shots for Portland.
"He scored a great goal again over the weekend," Timbers assistant coach Sean McAuley said on Tuesday. "He's like a lot of the young players. We've got exciting young talent on the club. And they need to keep improving. I've seen over the years of coaching that a lot of young players coming in on a peak and then they plateau out. And it's where that plateau falls that's where his career will be. And what we're hoping to do is make sure that peak keeps continuing and that he plateaus into a really good player."
Dike said he hopes his improved work ethic – forged during his two months with the Blues – will serve him well over the last month of the season.
"I think I've played well, but I think I can do better," Dike said. "And I think that's definitely something I've learned from being on loan is just evaluate myself every couple weeks and see what I've done better and what I can do better."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.