Armchair Analyst: One big question for the Portland Timbers

A Big Question: Can Cristhian Paredes make the leap?

This is more than tangentially related to THE big question facing the Timbers – "is this the year Diego Chara gets old?" Because if the answer to THE big question is "yes" then it feels like the Timbers have zero chance of competing at or near the top of the Western Conference.

The numbers back that up:

Chara was immense last year, and there's no real reason to think he won't be again this year. We can probably stow THE big question.

But the improvement curve of Paredes, who spent 2018 in Portland on loan and is likely to do the same in 2019, has the potential to make THE big question something less than an existential crisis, because if he starts delivering more that means, when it comes to Chara, they can start asking less. And asking less of Chara is a good way to keep the team's most important player young and fresh for a few more years.

Paredes, who played about 1,500 minutes last year, had his moments. He's not the otherworldly, field-shrinking defensive force Chara is, but he does a lot of shielding and a decent amount of ball-winning. And he's just 20 – he should get better.

How much better, and how soon? If the answers are "a lot" and "immediately," then Portland may have answered some questions they're not even really asking just yet.