Timbers ready to rock Portland
A season after getting largely overworked by a schedule that seemed to not end from the title season the previous year, the Portland Timbers are back to chase their second league title.
Portland opens its 2017 MLS season Friday against Minnesota United at Providence Park.
A late-season slump caused the Timbers to miss out on the playoffs last season, but it helped the team recupperate for this season and retool its lineup.
Leading scorer Fanendo Adi remains as the team's top offensive threat, while midfielder Darlington Nagbe is working his way into the national landscape on Team USA. And, fan favorite Diego Chara isn't going anywhere. Goalkeeper Jake Gleeson returns as well.
Two key losses are defender Nat Borchers, who retired, as did long-time captain Jack Jewsbury.
“We are hoping that it is going to be a very good season,” striker Fanendo Adi told the press at training on Tuesday. “We had a very successful preseason, playing friendly games against very good teams, so we are hoping that will translate into the games that matter the most. Hopefully we will go into the game on Friday with confidence from our last game.”
Of course, the Timbers have had their fair share of success in recent years. They finished the 2013 season on top of the West before making a run to the Conference Championship in the postseason, then surged to MLS Cup 2015, where their 2-1 win over Columbus Crew SC made history for the club.
In both of those seasons, the Timbers were bouncing back from disappointment. The 2012 season marked Portland’s worst year in their MLS era, forcing the club to make their only coaching change since joining the league as they finished second-to-last in the West. The 2014 campaign, like 2016, was saddled with high expectations after the Timbers’ first-place finish in their conference the year before. But a slow start to the season saw them fall just short of a playoff spot, missing out on the sixth and final seed by a single point.
The Timbers would like to break out of their boom-and-bust cycle. Yet for now, they’re focused on moving past the disappointments of 2016 as they start a new season.
“Everyone needed to rest after 34 games in the season,” said Adi. “It was a good offseason, but now that we are back there is just one thing on the plate: we play for trophies, we play to win games as they come. We are going to lose some, but the focus of every game is to come into the game and win.
The Timbers’ leading scorer for the last two seasons, Adi believes it is the players behind him in the formation that could make this season special.