Eight years ago today on Aug. 31, 2012, Providence Park – then known as JELD-WEN Field – was thundering. Not because of a late summer storm but rather due to a 1-0 Portland Timbers victory over the Colorado Rapids courtesy of a nifty goal from forward Bright Dike. In the postgame, on-field interview, Dike could barely hear the interviewers' questions as the crowd loudly chanted his name.
Back in 2010, Dike was one of the first players signed by Portland ahead of their leap to Major League Soccer. A star player out of Notre Dame, the forward had initially been drafted by the Columbus Crew in the first round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. Left unsigned, he trialed with Portland scoring a goal in his debut during a friendly against Costa Rica's Puntarenas FC. Dike went on to score 10 goals in his regular-season rookie campaign – 15 across all competitions – and quickly became a crowd-favorite in both the USL and MLS eras of the team for his strong-nosed play in front of goal.
His time in Portland eventually got him called up to the Nigeria National Team where he scored a memorable header at Fulham FC's Craven Cottage in a friendly against Italy. His younger sister, Courtney, also played for Nigeria during the 2014 U-20 Women's World Cup and his younger brother Daryl is now a rookie striker for Orlando City SC.
Dike sat down with Timbers.com to talk about what he's up to now and his memories of that 2012 goal and postgame interview.
Since your time in Portland, soccer has taken you around the world. What are you up to now and where has life settled for you?
I bought a house out near Washington D.C., and I am a cloud security engineer. I'm still involved with the soccer community here – MLS and locally.
This year marks the 10th MLS season for the Portland Timbers. You were one of the club’s first MLS player signings. There was a press conference. What do you remember about that day, and becoming one of the club’s first MLS-era players?
I remember thinking to myself, "Now I am finally here and this is where all the fun begins. It is the start of something you have always wanted, and now you're finally gonna get your chance."
Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer / Portland Timbers
When you look back upon your time in Portland, including your rookie season in 2010, what are some of your best memories? Any favorite goals?
My favorite goal is my second [MLS] goal at [Providence Park]. I had waited about a year to be in the starting lineup. It was my second goal in my first two starts. My Mom used to always get upset about me doing backflips as celebrations, but in that game I couldn't help myself. After I scored that goal from a Sal Zizzo cross, I ran to the corner and did a backflip. (Laughs) After the game I was interviewed by NBC on their little desk setup on the field. About half way through the interview they had to pause because the crowd was so loud and chanting "DIKE". I absolutely loved that.
What’s your go-to story you talk about your time with the Timbers?
I have many, but one of my go-to stories is my whole journey of being on the Timbers. I was unsigned, and my first Timbers game was a friendly [in 2010]. That game was tied and Gavin [Wilkinson], who was the coach at the time, subbed me on in like the 70th minute and my first touch was chipping the goalie from outside the 18. I signed with Timbers basically that day. In my second [MLS season] I was on loan for half the season, came back to Timbers with five goals in nine games, which brought me to the Nigeria National Team that same year. That's the story I like to talk about because I went from being on loan to playing for Nigeria all in the same year. I had worked so hard for it, staying after practices, going on the field at random times to get extra practice.
I remember that year being on the field at the stadium and it was only Gavin and me and he says, "I bet you can't hit the crossbar." We were standing outside the 18. I think it was funny because I was on a hot streak at the moment, where I felt that everything I shot was a goal, so my confidence was really high and Gavin knew this. I didn't even try to chip the ball on to the crossbar, I SHOT the ball with my laces at the crossbar and the ball slammed off the cross bar with a loud ping. I looked at Gavin and he just smiled and chuckled. I owe a lot of thanks to many people in Portland – staff, fans, doctors – but especially Gavin because he had the faith and belief in me from the beginning.
You have siblings who have also gone on to have soccer careers, Courtney and Daryl. What are family gatherings like? What role has the game of soccer played in your family?
Soccer is everything in my family. My whole family played soccer at some point. My sister Courtney played in the World Cup for Nigeria, and now it's my brother's turn. [Daryl] is only 19 years old, and some of the things he does on the ball and the way he reads the game is extremely impressive. I cannot wait to see where his career takes him. I'm very proud of my family and the things they have done.