Kris Boyd came into Portland with big plans and a big bang introduction – stark contrast to the unsightly end less than a year later. In the end, Boyd’s time ended quietly, ingloriously, with Timbers owner Merritt Paulson cutting a check and cutting ties.
The cynic might say Paulson timed this thing to drop on MLS Draft day so as to partially absorb or deflect the sharpest shrapnel of ridicule. But that would not really be fair, since the news didn’t come out of the Timbers’ office. Rather, Ives Galarcep of Soccer By Ives was the first to report that Boyd and the Timbers had parted ways, doing so from the draft at Indianapolis.
It’s a tough situation, granted. But at this point, was there really any other option?
Boyd clearly wasn’t what Paulson thought he would be. Some of us, including myself, went back and forth with Paulson, engaging in a good-natured Twitter fight last year about how successful he would be in MLS. Scottish strikers, myself and others suggested, had a shaky history in the league, pouring in goals while playing for Celtic or Rangers in the wildly imbalanced Scottish Premier League but then frequently failing to repeat the successful rate of fire here.
Stack that on top of his obvious lack of stylistic accord with Porter and, well, the writing was the Jeld-Wen Field Wall.
At this point, keeping Boyd would have been awkward and almost certainly unproductive for all, straining to save some face and salvage something from an arrangement that simply wasn’t going to bear fruit.
Severing ties and starting with a truly clean slate for Porter – as opposed to a “mostly” clean slate and a square peg of a striker matched with a round hole of a system – was best for all.
And from Boyd’s side, it’s best for him, too. What would be the point of staying around, trying to convince a manager who clearly has little faith in the Timbers’ DP.
It’s not Boyd’s fault that he got chopped up in a maelstrom of conflicting ideas and poor personnel choices. He was, by all accounts, a good teammate, a decent fellow and a worthy representative of the Timbers brand.
Pulling the band-aide off quickly does smart for a minute – but it’s the better way to go about it, as we all know.
For a lot of us, that meant delving into statistics and seeing what matched the eye test. Many started Googling the name “N'Golo Kante“, the dynamic disruptor who’d move to Chelsea in August.
He’s a household name now, with some personalities even arguing that he should buck the trend of Ballon d’Or nominees including only major statistic producers (There was a time when names like Fabio Cannavaro and Matthias Sammer claimed the honor, you know).
For our purposes, we’ll use a pair of advanced stats sites and the good ol’ eye test. (Of the sites we’re using, Squawka seems to skew toward high attack scores, while WhoScored tilts a bit toward the back, so life is good if a player hits both sites’ Top 50).
Before getting into our team — we promise no 10-picture, click-to-reveal-next stuff — some stats that stood out.
— Three players have had outstanding “short” seasons for different reasons.
Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi took a short spell to adjust to the Premier League after arriving in January, but has been the Foxes’ most influential player in their recent turnaround).
Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake essentially was the Cherries’ first-half success before heading back to Chelsea where Antonio Conte won’t move him ahead of Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses (and that’s actually understandable as you’ll see below).
Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas just doesn’t feature a ton for Conte, but in limited time his per-90 stats on Squawka trail only Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez.
Ander Herrera (Manchester United, 7.44, 36.64) – Long-heralded at Athletic Bilbao, Herrera is finally showing what made him so sought. One odd stat that may be explained by his willingness to run to any situation: he’s very high in average times dribbled past.
Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton, 7.34, 20.57) – The best player in Aston Villa’s awful 2015-16, he’s been arguably as effective as N’Golo Kante. Seriously.
Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) – Once the top player on a relegated QPR, Phillips is fifth in the Premier League in assists despite missing the last four matches with injury.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur, 7.41, 31.89) – Second in the PL in key passes, he doesn’t get the plaudits of English teammates Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The relationships are very symbiotic.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 7.44) – On an under-achieving team, Zaha’s statistics are wild. He’s the most-fouled player in the league, and attempts/completes the most dribbles in the PL. He gives the ball away a lot, too, but that happens when you’re the focal point of everything your team does in the attacking third.
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, 30.54) – The Nigerian turns 21 in May, and has four goals and seven assists across all competitions.
“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.
“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”
There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).
We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.