PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers resumed training Monday after the team’s two-week stint in Arizona, and they had a new trialist in tow.
Deon McCaulay, a Belizean international forward, is being evaluated as a possible replacement for Bright Dike, the third-year striker who will be out until at least August after he tore his left ACL in Tuesday’s preseason game against Seattle. The Timbers’ director of medicine, Dr. Richard Edelson, performed successful surgery on Dike, who was expected to compete for a starting job after scoring five goals in the Timbers’ final 11 games last season, according to the team.
“It’s too bad,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said after Monday’s session at JELD-WEN Field. “We feel for Bright. He was going to be a key piece for us this year. But that’s football, it happens and guys get injured. … He’s a tough kid, he’s a great kid, he’s a good kid. We’ll miss him, but he’ll overcome this.”
Reserve forward Brent Richards also tore his ACL in training on Jan. 26 and will be out approximately six months, leaving the Timbers with five healthy forwards on the roster – only three of which have MLS experience (Ryan Johnson, Darlington Nagbe and Danny Mwanga). McCaulay, 25, last played for the RG City Boys United of the Premier League of Belize.
He popped up on the radar after a strong showing in last month’s Copa Centroamericana, leading Belize to a fourth-place finish and subsequently qualifying for this summer’s Gold Cup.
“We need to look at our options,” Porter said. “Losing Bright, he was a guy who was going to push for a starting spot and-or a guy coming off the bench. We’re certainly looking at what options are out there. We want to see how [McCaulay] does.”
Dike’s injury presumably creates an opportunity for Mwanga, the former No. 1 draft pick of the Philadelphia Union, with Nagbe and Johnson the anticipated starters. Porter said he’s confident in Mwanga’s abilities in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation. The new Portland boss also said winger Sal Zizzo has the ability to play a wide forward position in a 4-3-3.
“We feel good about our depth,” Porter said.
Another trialist, Mikael Silvestre, who was with Portland since the start of training camp, wasn’t with the team Monday. Porter said Silvestre, a French international and former Manchester United defender, stayed in Arizona at the conclusion of his trial but his time with the Timbers may not be over.
“He’s not necessarily moving on,” Porter said. “His trial has ended at this point. We’re going to explore our options, and we’re going to be looking at his situation and making a decision shortly. I’m not sure we’re done with him, I’m not sure we’re not done with him.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.