Portland Timbers 2014 Season Preview: Of Groins and Savvy


Please avoid.

How’d 2013 Treat ‘Em (14-5-15 (W-L-T), 54 gf, 33 ga; 1st in West)
Having made the personal, if non-participatory, goal for the Portland Timbers to make the playoffs, one can imagine what it felt like seeing them sitting criss-cross applesauce on the top of the West at season’s end. (Something about feeling giddy.) The whole season felt improbable, really, almost like Portland had taken some other longer-suffering team’s place in the line where they hand out the happy seasons. (Something about feeling dirty.) That a season so insanely full of draws ended with even the Supporters’ Shield still in reach only made it weirder. To their credit, the Timbers climbed the heap playing pretty stuff – great stuff at times – and without “real” forwards. (Look, I admire Ryan Johnson, honest, but he’s more labor than art.) Real Salt Lake did what all those ties could not – e.g. provide the singular (totally unwelcome) service of proving that miracles are special for being rare. Ah, well. We’ll always have the playoff series win over the Sounders…

Exciting Additions! – Gaston Fernandez, Norberto Paparatto, Schillo Tshuma, Steve Zakuani

Tricky Departures… – Andrew Jean-Baptiste (sorta), Ryan Johnson, Sal Zizzo (sorta)

Quality Parts: Diego Chara, Will Johnson, Pa Modou Kah, Darlington Nagbe, Donovan Ricketts, Diego Valeri, Rodney Wallace

It Gets Better If They Come Good: Kalif Alhassan, Fernandez, Michael Harrington, Jack Jewsbury, Paparatto, Frederic Piquionne, Tshuma, Maximiliano Urruti, Steve Zakuani

What I’d Expect Based on the Above:
Sure, Timbers could fans manage expectations for 2014, but what’s the point? Even if hope is just god’s tiger trap loaded with spikes aimed at one’s still-beating heart, fuck it, go all in. Besides, there’s more cause for optimism this season, not less. Balance the worry about Valeri’s against another year of leveling up on the savvy for players like Nagbe and Alhassan. For the rest, we took stock of our two main problems – e.g. the pretty passing dying about 30 yards from the opposition goal and that problem with defending set-pieces – and threw a couple Argentines at them. In the former case (e.g. offense) Portland made up in skill (Fernandez) what they lost in size (Ryan Johnson). As for the defense, Paparatto might work, he might not. How much does that glass jaw really matter in the context of  the league’s second best goals-against number? It’s not all perfect: with Jewsbury a year older and me unwilling to accept the validation that Harrington’s call-up to the Men’s National Team should provide, the defensive flanks do concern me (crosses come from somewhere); and I’d be worried about Ricketts’ age…except last year pointed out, rather insistently, that it didn’t matter. For me, the season pivots on Valeri’s groin, just how good Fernandez is, and how Porter fits together that mess of attackers. Those seem like good problems to have. If Porter solves them all, I see no reason why Portland can’t make this season last at least one week longer than the last one.

2014 Season Opener: v. Philadelphia Union, March 8



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