by OSC Special Edition
March 1, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
The Portland Timbers entered into the 2016 MLS season heads high. Having captured the MLS championship in 2015; a majority of the team's players got back to the league with determination of defending their title. Unfortunately, the season did not turn out as they had expected. This was due to several reasons. Key among them were player injuries that made them lose consistency and the champions' psych. At home, the Timbers had success that made them appear unstoppable. However, on away matches, they lacked the confidence. In the long run, they lost focus and missed the playoffs after a 4-1 away defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
This season, Coach Caleb Porter is ready to rectify the team's mistake that made them miss the playoffs. While most people argue that the Timbers portrayed dismal performance was due to rampant player injuries, Porter says that the poor results were due to lack of depth in the Timbers squad. The Timbers didn't have good player alternatives to replace the injured stars.
However, for the 2017 season, Porter says he focused much on rebuilding depth to strengthen his side.
Despite missing the playoffs, the Timbers had some good games last season. They include; 3-1, 4-2, and 3-0 wins against San Jose Earthquakes, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and Sporting Kansas City respectively. In the same season, the Timbers had their longest unbeaten run extend to 9 games between May 22nd and July 17th. These included 4 wins at home and five away ties giving them 17 points in 9 games.
On the other hand, the Timbers also had bad games such as the 4-1, 3-1, and 4-1 losses against Orlando City SC, Seattle Sounders FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps. All these significant losses happened on away soil. The Timbers also performed relatively poorly in the CONCACAF Champions League. By earning two wins, a tie and a loss, they missed the knockout stage to Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa.
The most crucial loss in the offseason was that of defender Nat Borchers who officially retired from professional soccer. The 35-year-old who had won a pair of MLS titles with the Timbers in his 14 years in the MLS, had his career terminated by the rupture of his Achilles tendon some time in July.
Other losses include Chris Klute, Jermaine Taylor, Steven Taylor, and Chris Konopka who were all traded off to other clubs.
The Timbers key acquisitions this winter include; David Guzman, Michael Amick, Sebastian Blanco, Jeremy Ebobisse, Roy Miller, Lawrence Olum, Chance Myers, Victor Aarboleda, Kendall McIntosh, Jeff Attinella, and Rennico Clarke.
David Guzman remains as the newcomer to watch. The Costa Rican midfielder from Deportivo Saprissa will play a vital role helping to link the defense and the attacking force. This gives other midfielders Diego Chara and Diego Valeri a good chance to roam upfield. Pressure is expected to mount on Darlington Nagbe who Coach Porter says has to switch from the center midfield to the left flank. From the flank, Porter says that Nagbe will perform better since he has the chance to move deep into the center and create opportunities. Additionally, Nagbe will have a chance to fall back and help the defenders any time the team is out of possession. He has to perform better than he did last year to ensure he gets more European interest.
The Timbers coaching staff remains as Caleb Porter as the head coach while Sean McAuley, Andrew Gregor, Cameron Knowles, Pablo Moreira, and Adin Brown taking the assistance roles. Porter is expected to retain his 4-4-2 formation. Although the players and Porter are all having high hopes of winning the championship or rather making it to a playoff spot, pundits and Las Vegas odds do not portray Portland Timbers as a serious title contender this season.