The 2015 season will be one Portland fans will treasure forever more. The Timbers managed to exceed all expectations by lifting the MLS Cup title in what was just their fifth season in Major League Soccer. Caleb Porter deserves great credit for the job he has done in Portland, and his attacking team fully deserved their success last term. The big question will now be: Can they do it again? Well, it’s certainly going to be tricky, but the Timbers still have a talented squad, a great coach and some of, if not the most passionate fans in MLS. Roll on 2016…
Last season’s finish:
Western Conference – Position: 3rd – P34 – W15 – D8 – L11
What needs to change this year?
Despite their incredible success at the end of the season, the Timbers have a couple of areas they need to look at from their regular season displays. Firstly, their home form was not good enough for a team with such a noisy and passionate fanbase. The club only won eight of their 17 home matches during the regular season, ranking just 12th for points acquired at home, and need to make Providence Park more of a fortress in 2016. They could also do with scoring more goals. That seems a strange suggestion based on the quality of their attacking players, but Portland scored the third-fewest goals in MLS last time out and will want to alleviate some of the pressure on their defence by scoring more regularly this year.
Key changes to squad:
Ins: Chris Klute – Defender, Zarek Valentin – Defender, Ned Grabavoy – Midfielder, Jack McInerney – Forward & Jermaine Taylor – Defender
Outs: Norberto Paparatto – Defender, Michael Nanchoff – Midfielder, Maximiliano Urruti – Forward, Rodney Wallace – Midfielder, Jorge Villafana – Defender, Will Johnson – Midfielder & George Fochive – Midfielder
Diego Valeri – Midfielder – In a team that possesses many important players, Diego Valeri stands out most as the Timbers’ key man. The playmaker can win a match on his own, either through finding the net or threading through inch-perfect passes for teammates. He ended 2015 with three goals and nine assists over the course of the regular season and playoffs, with his most important striker coming just one minute into the MLS Cup Final. He will look forward to another fine season this time around.
One to Watch:
Lucas Melano – Forward – The 22-year-old Designated Player moved to Portland last summer and went on to score two goals with four assists in 12 starts as a Timbers player. He will be expected to be a regular in the team in 2016 and would appear set for a big season. He’s still young but has already shown Portland fans what he’s capable of, with his fine solo goal against FC Dallas booking the Timbers’ place in the MLS Cup Final.
Western Conference – 3rd – The Timbers look in good shape for another successful season and should be able to finish in the top three of the Western Conference again. The club performed incredibly in the playoffs, and will expect to make the postseason without much difficulty. They have made a few key changes to the squad and so it’s important they try and hit the ground running as reigning champions in 2016.
What are you expecting from the Portland Timbers in 2016?