What a difference a day makes

Three player moves in 24 hours have completely changed the Timbers’ season opener, not to mention their 2012 season.

When the Timbers kick off their MLS season at home against the Philadelphia Union on March 12th, they will be carrying much heavier expectations than they did a year ago. Most Timbers fans were reasonably pleased with a freshman season in MLS that saw us competing for the playoffs until the very last matchday, but now we expect a playoff appearance.

When we all turned off our Twitter and went to bed Saturday night, there was reason to worry that the season opener, and indeed the 2012 season, would present some real obstacles to that playoff dream. Our newest striker, Jose Adolfo Valencia, had missed several practices and a mysterious “red flag” had been raised in his physicals. On the other side, the man who completely defined Philadelphia’s offense for the past two seasons, Sebastian Le Toux, looked to be settling for another season in MLS rather than moving off to Bolton in the Premier League.

How things have changed in the last day.

First and foremost, the Timbers have signed Kris Boyd. The Scotsman who holds the all-time scoring record in the Scottish Premier League is certainly the biggest signing in Timbers franchise history, and I think has to be considered in the top five signings in MLS history as a whole.

Then, Sebastian Le Toux was traded to Vancouver. On a season-long basis, that may be a negative for us, since we face him three times with the Whitecaps rather than once with the Union, but it certainly declaws our opening match opponents. Le Toux was responsible, in either scoring or assisting, for 57% of the Union’s goals over the past two seasons.

Then, in another blow to the Sons of Ben, Philly’s 2011 starting keeper Faryd Mondragon announced that he has come to terms with the Union to return to his native Colombia and play for Deportivo Cali, his first professional team. Last season, Mondragon started 29 games for Philly, and was tied for the second-lowest goals against average among active starting keepers. Zach MacMath is a very talented keeper, but give me a seasoned vet in goal over a gifted youngster any day.

So in the last day, we have an explosive new striker, and the Union have lost their most important offensive player and one of the best keepers in the league. If the noise from the crowd wasn’t going to give us the advantage on March 12th, these moves certainly do.