Bright Dike's travels to Africa part of his road back to 2012
There isn’t much that can hold back a determined Bright Dike. Not even a family trip to Nigeria during the offseason hindered the Timbers forward from working to be in top form at the start of preseason training camp.
More than a month ago, Dike set off on a three-week trip to Nigeria bridging the months of December and January with his parents, four younger siblings and several members of his extended family in tow to visit relatives, including his 96-year-old grandfather.
Normally, people relax on vacations, and that’s not to say Dike didn’t — he’s just very focused on entering Timbers training camp ready to make an impact.
“I worked out almost every day out there,” Dike said following Monday morning’s first session of training camp at JELD-WEN Field. “It’s tough out there because it’s almost 100 degrees, but it’s good for you. It was a good way to get in shape. I was running on dirt roads, kicking a ball around in the afternoon.”
Nearly a year ago, Dike was excited to make the jump up to Major League Soccer with the Timbers following a successful 2010 second-division season that saw the forward notch 10 goals and one assist in 23 matches. Unfortunately, he suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon during the Timbers first preseason match on Feb. 4 against the Ventura County Fusion.
He would miss the next five months of the season, returning to the pitch for the first time during an exhibition match against Mexican Primera Division side Club América on July 7.
During the second half of the 2011 MLS season, Dike worked to get back into shape and regain his match fitness.
He worked hard enough to make 11 substitute appearances for the first team, even scoring his first career MLS goal on Aug. 17 during a 3-1 loss on the road against Sporting Kansas City. Playing with the Timbers Reserves also aided Dike’s recovery — he scored four goals in five matches for the Reserves.
“He’s come back in tremendous shape. He’s a lot lighter now than he was during last season when he got fit and healthy,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said. "He realizes it’s a great opportunity for him.
“The guy worked his socks off to get back to health, but it’s so difficult getting fit late in the season to get that match sharpness. I don’t think he had that right through at the end of the season, but as I said he’s lost a lot of weight and I think he’s really relishing the challenge this year.”
The team will be looking for other players to fill the scoring void left after the Timbers traded leading goalscorer Kenny Cooper to the New York Red Bulls on Jan. 12 and Dike acknowledged the importance of continuing to work hard to capitalize on any opportunities.
“Last year I was so excited, but this year I’m twice as excited,” Dike said. “I’ve been preparing this whole offseason to get ready to play. I was waiting for the next season to start.
“There’s definitely an opportunity (as a result of the trade), but that’s besides the fact. Just coming in prepared, healthy, it’s great. The focus, the attitude everything — a lot of things have changed for me during the offseason.”
Despite working hard through a family vacation, the importance of the trip —one Dike hadn’t made for more than a decade — wasn’t lost on the striker.
“It was really good and at the same time it was a different atmosphere for soccer and running so that was good as well,” Dike said. “You appreciate a lot of things that you take for granted every day in the US. Part of that kind of makes you thankful for what you have and makes you want to work that much harder.”