After a 2012 season that saw Bright Dike score 16 goals across all competitions--5 in the regular season, 5 in the MLS Reserve League, and 6 in the USL Pro while on loan to the LA Blues--the Timbers forward added one more tally to his growing goalscoring exploits as he scored the equalizer for Nigeria in a friendly against Catalonia on Wednesday.
Dike started the match in Barcelona as Nigeria faced the unique autonomous region of northeastern Spain known as Catalonia. Though not recognized by FIFA or UEFA, Catalonia has fielded a national team since the early 20th century often with numerous stars from FC Barcelona in their starting XI. Wednesday's match was no different as the Johan Cruyff-coached side featured Barca legends Carles Puyol, Xavi, and Gerard Pique.
For Dike, it didn't matter. After battling all game--including a nasty elbow to Puyol in the first half that left the centerback temporarily bloodied--Dike broke through in the 55th minute with a nifty cutback and lashed a shot with his left foot into the upper left corner of the net. Notice the trademark cartwheel backflip celebration.
Congratulations to Dike. Here's to getting 2013 started off on the (left) foot and to making your case for inclusion in Nigeria's squad for this January's Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
Noah Davis, contributor to NBC Sports' ProSoccerTalk.com as well as MLSsoccer.com, was in town recently for the Timbers-Sounder Cascadia match. But he also took note of the massive crowds generated for the MLS Reserve League games earlier this summer that drew on average this season 8,200. The Aug. 26 match against the San Jose Reserves set a new Reserve League record of 14,121--more than a regular season matches at New England and Chivas.
In his latest piece on Grantland, Davis writes about how with Reserve League tickets easier to come by and being affordable, the matches present opportunity to see rising stars play which the Rose City has quickly embraced:
In Portland, attending a reserve league game means seeing 19-year-old potential American star Charles Renken and the brilliant Colombian 18-year-old Sebastian Rincón. Hometown favorite, Brent Richards, a 22-year-old forward who starred for the University of Washington and the Timbers U-23 squad before signing as senior side's first homegrown player in January, is also a fixture. "We have a knowledgeable fan base and they know the quality that can come up through the reserves. I mean, Brent Richards is already a hero, and he's played what, a whole 45 minutes this year?" Fernando Machicado, who chairs the Game Day Ops and the Merchandise Committee for the Timbers Army, says. (Actually, it's closer to 200 minutes, but point taken.)
Moreover it's something MLS has taken notice of as well:
"I think clearly what's going on in Portland shows what the reserve league's potential is," MLS President Mark Abbott says. For most teams, it will take a long time to reach that potential, if they ever do, but, Abbott says it's undeniable that there's something special going on in Timbers Nation: "They have had some decent draws up in Seattle and occasionally in some other places, but nothing like we're seeing here in Portland."
Reserve League Highlights: Timbers set attendance record against San Jose Reserves