PORTLAND, Ore. – When the Portland Timbers season came to an end in the Western Conference Championship after their first-ever appearance in the MLS Cup playoffs, manager Caleb Porter indicated that the core of the team is in place.
But there are still some moves to be made this offseason and they started on Monday, when the Timbers parted ways with four players while extending bona fide contract offers to another four, including Ryan Johnson, their second-leading goal scorer in 2013.
However, that might not be enough to hold on to Johnson, who scored nine goals for Portland after arriving in an offseason trade from Toronto.
“He wants to venture overseas,” Portland GM Gavin Wilkinson told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s done a lot in his career, and he wants the opportunity try a different environment and a little bit more money.”
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That leaves the Timbers in the market for another striker, according to Wilkinson. Portland currently have youngsters Maximilliano Urruti, 22, and Jose Valencia, 21, as the only forwards on their roster. They’re also still in negotiations with former English Premier League veteran Frederique Piquionne.
“You’ve got some names in there that given half a chance will finish,” Wilkinson said. “We’re looking for a finisher.”
Wilkinson, who recently returned from a scouting trip, along with Porter, to South America, said the club is also targeting a defender that fits into “Caleb’s system.”
“We’re after a wide player that has the ability to stretch defenders," Wilkinson said. "With the ability to go one-on-one with a player and give us a bit more of an attacking presence out wide and the ability to penetrate without the ball and stretch the team we’re playing against in order for the midfielders to have a little bit more room to play as well."
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Both of Portland’s starting outside backs, Jack Jewsbury and Michael Harrington, are under contract for 2014, along with 19-year-old Jamaican international Alvas Powell. The Timbers declined their option on right back Ryan Miller.
“It’s not an overhaul,” Wilkinson said. “I think last season you would frame it as an overhaul. I think this year it’s a strategic modification in some ways, just looking at the right pieces in the right position that will give us the look that we want. It’s definitely going to be a lot less changes this year than last.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.