It’s quiet on Morrison Street. Some would say too quiet.
In a summer stocked with major MLS moves, each seemingly tabbed as the next big sign of the League’s maturation, the Portland Timbers have stayed uncharacteristically quiet.
Michael Nanchoff went off on loan. So was Jose Valencia. Then he wasn’t. Then he was. Then he wasn’t.
The Timbers brought in Alvas Powell, a smart early move to bring up a very promising youngster, but in as wet a summer as we’ve seen around MLS in some time, the Timbers’ moves were decidedly un-splashy.
Unfortunately coinciding with the Timbers’ summer transfer inactivity has been a stretch of play that, when compared to Portland’s torrid start, can only fairly be described as a slump. Okay, maybe a mini-slump.
The combination of the activity around MLS, Portland’s lukewarm performances, and a tight Western playoff race have some in and around the Rose City understandably ruing the passage of the transfer deadline as a missed opportunity to compete with the other contenders in the West that added to their roster at the deadline.
The consensus among those who desired a move at the bygone deadline seems to be that Portland should have targeted a striker or fullback. For what it’s worth, it appears Portland did target a striker, as Merritt Paulson revealed that a designated player deal fell apart at the eleventh hour, and that Valencia’s long-rumored loan became off-again when the Timbers were left at the altar.
The downside to not making a summer move, however, may not actually be that great for the Timbers for two reasons.
First, summer moves do not bring with them any guarantee of significant second half success. In 2012, six teams made designated player signings in the summer. Of those teams, two got markedly better, two were only marginally better, one was marginally worse, and one was markedly worse after making their midsummer move. Major midseason transactions, then, only appear to have made a significant positive difference in the table for two of the six teams that made them in 2012, suggesting the transactions are far from a golden ticket to the playoffs.
Second, when you look at the construction of the Timbers’ 2013 roster, there really isn’t an easy place to make an upgrade. I agree that fullback and forward make the most sense from an immediate perspective, but in taking a closer look at the Timbers’ roster, making any move short of a no-brainer would have been difficult.
At fullback, Michael Harrington’s early season showers have turned into summer flowers for Portland, as he has been one of the most consistent Timbers over the past two months. On the other side, while the rotation of Jack Jewsbury, Ben Zemanski, and Ryan Miller has left something to be desired, the addition of Powell makes a signing there impractical and imprudent.
With respect to forward, the Timbers have primarily relied on Ryan Johnson up top, with Rodney Wallace, Diego Valeri, and Darlington Nagbe not far behind in the attack. Simply put, signing a forward midseason would have relegated one of these guys to the pine. Considering their universal fine form, the Timbers would have been foolish to disrupt their attack for anything less than a home run signing. The lack of an obvious spot to fill in the lineup made it all the more likely that the Timbers would end up on the minus-side of teams making a midsummer move, something that could have been disastrous in a tight Western race.
This explains why the Timbers were quick to throw in the towel when their DP forward bid didn’t come to fruition. It’s a safe bet that the Timbers’ target was a wish list sort of guy; the kind of player that would have made the MLS media gush once more about how far the League has come. But when that didn’t pan out, the risk of moving onto a Plan B would have outweighed the potential reward.
So the Timbers stood pat. And maybe that quiet isn’t such a bad thing.
Onward, Rose City.
 Columbus Crew netted 1.69 points per game after acquiring Federico Higuain, 0.16 PPG above their 1.53 full season average. Likewise, the Houston Dynamo logged 1.74 points per game after bringing in Boniek Garcia, 0.18 points better than their season average of 1.56.
 New England inched up to 1.11 points per game after signing Jerry Bengtson, compared to their season average of 1.03 PPG. Meanwhile, Montreal improved to 1.33 PPG after signing Marco Di Vaio, 0.09 points better than their season pace of 1.24 PPG. Di Vaio’s five goals in 2012 probably did make a difference for Montreal, but the case for Bengtson is considerably weaker with his two measly 2012 tallies.
 Despite his 2013 fanfare, the New York Red Bulls were worse after signing Tim Cahill, dropping to 1.58 PPG; 0.10 points below their season average of 1.68.
 Although the wheels were wobbling on the Whitecaps’ wagon before Kenny Miller showed up, they entirely fell off after his arrival with the ‘Caps sinking to 0.92 points per game; 0.34 points below their season average of 1.26 PPG.
 Notably, only two of the six teams to sign a DP in 2012 made the playoffs, although Columbus certainly feel hard done in that respect.
 Ryan Johnson seems to be the most common choice to head to the bench, but his seven goals and four assists in 2013 make him, on paper, the most productive of the bunch.