Monday, February 6, 2012

Kris Boyd's arrival signals a change in Timbers' style

With the Portland Timbers signing ex-Scotland striker Kris Boyd, the MLS in the Pacific Northwest takes on an intriguging new look. He replaces former USA international Kenny Cooper, who was traded to wannabe-glamour-club, the New York Red Bulls.

The Timbers started their MLS existence relatively strongly last season, finishing sixth in the Western Conference and two games out of a wildcard playoff position. Should he replicate even half of his Scottish league form, Boyd should prove a more than adequate replacement for Cooper, who mustered only eight goals last season. Boyd, with a game described by the Shin Guardian as “a little bit of nastiness and a whole lot of go-go-go” could replace this total with no more than three games’ hard graft.

Boyd’s move leaves Houston Dynamo in severe need of a new forward. With last season’s offensive centrepiece Brian Ching now leading the line for Montreal and without Boyd, the Dynamo will need to find another forward – stat – or be forced to rely upon a lineup whose top goalscorer managed only six majors last term.

Many are cognizant of Boyd’s reputation as a bit of a dud when playing anywhere other than the SPL. Perhaps they should be more interested in the change of style he will bring to a team that was often last season devoid of precision.

The Scot’s reputation as a poacher who contributes only sporadically to lead-up play is stylistically the complete opposite of the man he replaces. Though Cooper’s play matched neither Stumptown expectation or his wage packet, he had undeniable value as a blunt-instrument forward that occasionally provided a valuable get-out-of-jail free card.

Rather than a player who will earn you probation, they hope Boyd will stop the team needing to play such a desperate game. Boyd’s style is based around deft incision and razor-sharp goal sense, and so can’t hope to provide such a leviathan target figure as the 6’3, 210 pound Cooper. Rather than being a creator, he is a finisher. That the Timbers went for a proven scorer indicates the team quite rightly hopes to change their gameplan accordingly.

All that remains is to question whether the rest of the Timbers’ squad are able to provide him with the supply he needs to flourish. Because with the money reportedly involved, this amounts to an gamble by General Manager Gavin Wilkinson. Should the club not adapt to their new front-man, the team will fail even to reproduce last year’s win totals.

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