KeyBank Match-up: Bright Dike vs. Jay DeMerit
Jay DeMerit’s unlikely path to becoming captain of Vancouver Whitecaps is well known. Undrafted out of University of Illinois at Chicago, playing for a seventh-tier team in England before getting discovered by Watford, scoring the goal that vaults them into the EPL, 2010 World Cup veteran for the US national team and now defensive centerback anchor for the Whitecaps. There’s even a documentary film about him.
For the Portland Timbers on Sunday (4 pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940), they’ll be coming into the match with a focus on winning the Cascadia Cup with a player with a unique story of his own that could feature prominently.
Bright Dike was a 2010 MLS SuperDraft first round pick of the Columbus Crew who didn’t make the team out of training. Signed by the USL Portland Timbers, he played 23 matches coming on strong in the second half to end up with 10 goals. Among the first players signed by the MLS edition of the Timbers, he started preseason training only to rupture his Achilles’ tendon in the team’s first preseason match. A long rehabilitation followed with Dike making a few late season appearances in 2011. Fast-forward to 2012 and Dike was sent on loan to third division USL PRO side LA Blues where he tallied six goals in ten matches—good enough to make the USL PRO 2012 All-League Second Team. He dutifully played solid soccer in the MLS Reserve League picking up a hat trick on July 29 and then finally worked his way into the first team in early August providing four goals in the past nine matches.
With new coach Caleb Porter watching from afar, Dike has been busy making a strong case to be a key ongoing part of the Timbers attack.
To say that both players display a tremendous sense of perserverance would be an understatement. But how the two perform in a charged Cascadia Cup game on Sunday brings us to Timbers soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s Key Bank Match-up.
WATCH: Dike heads home Zizzo cross
Bright Dike brings a direct attacking attitude to the front line. He is big, burly, and strong as he barrels straight ahead with pace. During his USL days, defenders would often bounce right off of him.
Now in MLS, he’s had to adjust his game a bit. He still brings his bulldozing energy, but he’s also developed more touch and positioning to go with his game. Always pestering the opposing defense, even when he doesn’t have the ball, Dike makes space for himself to be on the receiving end of a cross played in from the wing from Sal Zizzo or Franck Songo’o. His headed goal against Real Salt Lake (right) was a perfect example of his ability to make space as well as showcase his vertical leap.
Portland teammates also claim that Dike has the hardest shot on the team. Once he gets a hold of one on frame, it can be a handful.
But Vancouver’s DeMerit presents a big challenge for Dike. This is a man who has shut down some of the world’s most talented forwards in the English Premier League and as well as on a World Cup stage. As captain of a side that knows a win will secure Vancouver their first-ever MLS playoff berth, DeMerit will be keenly aware of what’s at stake in the match both in his own area of the pitch but also in motivating his teammates across the XI to bring full energy.
Ace in his positioning and very physical in his own game, DeMerit will battle Dike all match looking both to disrupt the flow of the Timbers attack, jostling for 50-50 balls as well as looking to redistribute the ball quickly in the counter attack. It portends to be gritty, tenacious and with big stakes on the line for both teams.
In other words, it will be quite the bash.