By Kevin Koczwara
Robbie Findley had a forgettable season in 2010 for Real Salt Lake. He managed to score just six goals in 36 appearances. English Championship — England’s second-tier professional league — side Nottingham Forest wasn’t deterred from signing the 25-year-old after Findley impressed the team’s staff during a trial. Forest signed the former MLS star to a 2-year contract pending the player’s work permit.
Findley was selected by Major League Soccer expansion side, Portland Timbers, earlier this month during the MLS’s expansion draft in hopes that the speedy forward may forgo interest from European teams and solidify the Timbers as a real threat for the MLS Cup in its first year. Portland knew what it was getting itself into when team executives selected the U.S. Men’s National Team forward, and in all fairness, encouraged the player to explore his options. A move to England has been part of the player’s plans since last season and his inclusion in the U.S.’s World Cup squad this summer only helped Findley get the offers he needed.
Forest beat out English Premier League team, Wolverhampton Wanderers, in getting Findley’s signature, but will the club be rewarded with the player who scored 15 goals in 2009 or the forward who scored just eight, seven and six goals in his three other professional seasons?
Forest is ninth in the Championship, but the club has managed just 24 goals in the league, tied for 20th out of 24 in the league. Findley will be tossed right into the fire of England’s second toughest division to give Forest another punch. Can he do it? Findley has the pace and experience, but his presence in front of goal hasn’t been the best while starring in the striker role.
“It’s a great challenge for him and a great challenge for us as well but there’s no doubt that he can score goals and, more importantly, with the pace he’s got he can be a real handful,” said Forest manager Bill Davies to the Associated Press.
Davies will hope Findley uses his pace in one of the world’s fastest and roughest leagues to his advantage. If Davies wants to get the best from the USMNT player he will look to deploy the quick winger in wide space and allow Findley to play off of another bigger stronger, striker.
For Findley, this is a chance for him to prove himself. He has struggled to get back into the grove after the World Cup, but England may be just the place of him to make an impact. His speed will be a welcomed weapon for Forest, but his goal scoring prowess needs to improve, quickly, if he wants to stay in England for more than two years. Findley has a tendency to mishandle an early touch and shoot wide when a chance materializes outside of a quick break.
This may just be the right step to help Findley develop into the player people have been expecting. Portland fans will surely feel disappointed if he sparkles at Nottingham Forest, but the rest of American soccer fans will rejoice because he will is one of the most promising strikers the U.S. has going into the 2014 World Cup. If Findley, Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore can all keep improving, then the U.S. will have a formidable front line, something the team has historically lacked. If this move doesn’t work for Findley, he will be just another forgotten American forward who couldn’t fulfill his potential.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at Kevin.Koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.