The Timbers Four: Dike, Cronin, Pore, and Johnson All Signed To 2011 MLS Roster

In front of a packed conference room in The Nines Hotel in downtown Portland, OR, the Portland Timbers announced the first player signings for their Major League Soccer inaugural season. Striker Bright Dike, goalkeeper Steve Cronin, and midfielder Ryan Pore—all members of the USSF Division 2 2010 Timbers roster—made the jump to the next level. Additionally, Portland also announced the signing of former Austin Aztex forward Eddie Johnson.

Timbers Technical Director Gavin Wilkinson made the announcement alongside Head Coach John Spencer. All four players are locked in in advance of the MLS Expansion Draft to be held on November 24. In talking about the importance of what the day meant, Wilkinson said simply, “I’m excited for the organization. I’m excited for these players and for John [Spencer].” Spencer added, “It’s exciting. I think they’re good enough players. I believe in them. It’s now down to them to believe in themselves and produce on the football field. I think we’re looking to sign quality players but we’re also looking to sign players that are coming into the peak of their careers.”

Starting up top, ex-Columbus Crew draft pick and Notre Dame graduate Bright Dike, 23, will help lead the attack. Dike’s rookie season started slowly with the Timbers in 2010 but he made his mark with a hat trick in U.S. Open Cup play against the Kitsap Pumas. In 23 regular season matches, Dike scored 10 goals becoming only the ninth player in Timbers United Soccer Leagues/USSF Division 2 history to score 10 or more goals in a single season.

A player familiar to Timbers fans is goalkeeper Steve Cronin. A 2009 USL First Division Goalkeeper of the Year, Cronin, 27, started in 28 games in 2010 with 12 shutouts. Prior to joining the Timbers, Cronin spent four years with the Los Angeles Galaxy and was a U20 international for the U.S. in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship.

Pore, also 27, is coming off a career year with the Timbers in which he scored 15 goals and 35 points in 29 matches giving him the Golden Boot award in USSF D2. Prior to joining Portland in 2009, Pore played in 58 matches over three seasons with the Kansas City Wizards after an All-American career at the University of Tulsa. He is also a fan favorite having scored the improbable fan-named “Sunflower Goal” against the Puerto Rico Islanders in the 2010 regular season home finale.

Finally, the Timbers announced that 26 year-old Austin Aztex forward/midfielder Eddie Johnson would also be joining the MLS squad. Johnson drew interest from many MLS clubs after being a close second to Pore in the 2010 USSF D2 goal scoring race with 14. A former England U20 international, Johnson started his professional career with the Manchester United academies and also spent time with Coventry City. Technical Director Wilkinson spoke a bit more about how the team signed Johnson, “We had the number one in the expansion [draft], Vancouver have the number one in the SuperDraft and they also have the number one in the discovery in the USSF Division 2. When that was decided, we placed priority on acquiring Eddie and actually signed Eddie at the transfer deadline and loaned him back to Austin. I think Eddie is a quality MLS player and has been for many many years.”

With these four players forming the core of the Portland Timbers 2011 MLS roster, it is clear that the team is ready for some attacking exciting soccer. Head Coach Spencer gave the last word, “It doesn’t matter what division you play in. If you’re good enough. You’re good enough.”

Photo:  Craig Mitchelldyer