2018 Key Transfers: Portland Timbers

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Portland Timbers and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

The Portland Timbers enjoyed a successful 2017 campaign as they made a strong charge to finish top of the Western Conference at the end of the season. However, they were left stunned as Houston knocked them out of the Conference Semifinals on home soil. That shock was followed by the departure of head coach Caleb Porter, who was loved by everyone associated with the club. He has been replaced with Giovanni Savarese and so how the former New York Cosmos coach handles the transition will be key to how successful Portland are in 2018. Some key offseason moves have been made to try and ensure they remain at the top end of the standings.

Key Signings

Andy Polo: Portland have added another dangerous weapon to their attacking arsenal ahead of the new season as Andy Polo joins from Mexico’s CA Monarcas Morelia. The 23-year-old winger has signed on loan with the option to buy at the end of the season. He is a versatile and speedy winger, who has represented Peru 15 times already, scoring once. The Timbers will hope his addition can fill the void left by Darlington Nagbe’s departure (more on that below).

Julio Cascante: Young defender Cascante joined the Timbers at the start of January in exchange for Targeted Allocation Money. At 24 years old he has already played international football for Costa Rica and has 100 professional matches under his belt. As with Roy Miller and David Guzman, Cascante has joined from Saprissa in his native Costa Rica. He will hope to impress and force his way into the starting XI on a regular basis.

Cristhian Paredes: Paraguayan prodigy Parades has joined on loan from Club America in Liga MX. Yet to play for Club America, Parades started his young career at Sol de America in Paraguay. Similar to Cascante, Parades has already made an appearance for his country. At 19, he has a long career in front of him and a point to prove as Portland will hope he can come in and add a new dimension to their attack.

Samuel Armenteros: Swedish striker Armenteros has joined on loan from Benevento in Serie A. He is yet another international signing, as he has played twice for Sweden. The question that will be posed is can he either partner or dislodge star striker Fanendo Adi in the Timbers strikeforce?

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Notable Departures

Darren Mattocks: Mattocks was the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft but his career has yet to live up to the potential that was assumed of the pacey striker. After spending the past six seasons in the Pacific Northwest with Vancouver and Portland, he is now on his way to DC United. He scored just five goals in 43 appearances for Portland.

Ben Zemanski: Zemanski joined Portland after three seasons with Chivas USA where he was a regular. Life at the Timbers was frustrating to say the least as injuries plagued his time in Portland. With only 15 starts over the last two years, Portland let his contract run out after five seasons and an MLS Cup.

Darlington Nagbe: Nagbe’s move to Atlanta was one of the major shocks of the offseason. Arguably one of the best players in the league on his day, his versatility and creative abilities would be an asset to any team. He was a huge fan favourite in Portland after joining in 2011 via the MLS SuperDraft. He joins Atlanta, with a huge $1.65 million in allocation money going the other way. Nagbe played 214 games, scored 27 goals and won one MLS Cup. Portland have lost one of their biggest stars, so it will be intriguing to see how they cope without him.

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Gallery: Exclusive photos from Portland’s 2-1 win over Vancouver

Portland Timbers returned to winning ways against Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Darlington Nagbe and former Vancouver striker Darren Mattocks.

Nagbe opened the scoring with a thundering strike that went in off the crossbar, leaving David Ousted no chance. Mattocks then doubled the lead before halftime, turning in a Diego Valeri cross to prove that he can be an adequate replacement for Fanendo Adi, who missed out through suspension.

Vancouver battled back to score just before the hour-mark, with Fredy Montero tapping in from the rebound after watching Jeff Attinella save his penalty.

The Whitecaps remain winless away from home, having lost all three road trips this term and now have to prepare for three more on the spin before returning to BC Place in a month.

Portland still top the Western Conference and the Supporters’ Shield standings after picking up 16 points through their first eight games.

Check out exclusive photos from Saturday’s Cascadia Cup rivalry clash at Providence Park, courtesy of MLSGB photographer, Denise McCooey.

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Vancouver Whitecaps 2-2 Columbus Crew: Five takeaways

Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew got Week 6’s action underway with the first midweek clash of the new MLS season on Wednesday night in a highly entertaining game that ended 2-2 at BC Place.

The Whitecaps came into the game on a win streak of four but had to settle for a valuable point after coming from behind twice to earn a share of the spoils.

Kei Kamara grabbed both of the Crew’s goals, with Octavio Rivero netting again for the Whitecaps and Darren Mattocks netting the all-important second equaliser.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Mattocks makes his mark

Carl Robinson decided the time was right to start Jamaican international Darren Mattocks on Wednesday, as the pacey forward started on the left in place of Kekuta Manneh, and he didn’t disappoint. Mattocks grabbed a goal and an assist and was named as Man of the Match in his first start of the year. He was full of energy and contributed to the defensive side of the game as well as attacking, and improved dramatically when Manneh entered the game on 56 minutes. He could have had a hat-trick on the night as he recorded seven shots, one of which cannoned off the post with the game level at 2-2. Vancouver’s forward line looks strong.

2. Columbus will be O-Kei

Kei Kamara in action for the Columbus Crew against Vancouver Whitecaps

Columbus Crew have had a less than convincing start to the 2015 season, winning just one of their opening four games but Wednesday night’s performance against the best side in MLS right now will leave Gregg Berhalter pleased. Federico Higuain missed the game through suspension but Kei Kamara didn’t suffer without the playmaker as he netted both of the Crew’s goals. Kamara now has three in four and looks sharp in and around goal. Expect the Crew to start climbing the Eastern Conference now.

3. Role reversals

Coming into this game, the Crew were the top side in MLS in terms of average possession per game, while the Whitecaps were the worst, seeing less of the ball than anyone else after five weeks. But that all changed on Wednesday as the ‘Caps dominated the game for large spells. Vancouver had 62% of the possession and showed a more controlling side to their game, while the Crew proved they can be just as effective as a counter-attacking side. These teams are two of the more exciting in MLS and proved they can play more than one way to good effect on Wednesday night.

4. Shall we just give Rivero the Golden Boot now?

Octavio Rivero in action for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Columbus Crew

Octavio Rivero added his fifth goal of the season against the Crew to keep him at the top of the goalscoring charts at this early stage and the Uruguayan forward looks unstoppable in and around goal. He picked up the March Player of the Month award in his first month in MLS and has recorded more shots, and shots on goal than any other player in the league. The Whitecaps are playing well and Rivero is looking like an incredible piece of business as he can’t stop finding the net. Expect him to continue his goalscoring form when the Whitecaps travel to San Jose on Saturday.

5. Is this the turning point for entertainment in MLS this season?

The 2015 season hasn’t hit full flow yet as there have been several cagey displays by teams and nowhere near enough goals (we’re looking at you Colorado) but that changed on Wednesday. The ‘Caps and Crew played out one of the best games of the season so far at BC Place as there were a combined 37 shots on goal at either end. Both teams attacked from the outset and that lead to a free-flowing, entertaining game that we usually see more of across the league. This was a hopefully a sign of things to come as Week 6 got off to a fun start. Bring on the weekend!

Darren Mattocks fails to impress Bournemouth, moves on to IFK Göteborg

Vancouver Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks is set for another weeklong training spell away from the MLS club and is set to join up with Swedish side IFK Goteborg during a preseason tour of Turkey.

The 24-year-old Jamaican spent the past week with Championship side AFC Bournemouth but clearly failed to impress enough as he has moved on already.

Mattocks only netted six times in 30 league appearances in 2014 and the Whitecaps could be looking to offload him if the right offer comes along.

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By allowing him to train with other clubs, Vancouver must be hoping that someone is interested in the former first round SuperDraft pick, but the likelihood is that he will return to MLS with the team this season.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations and a lot of talk about my players,” Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson admitted in November.

“I’ve kept it open at the moment. I haven’t said that I’m looking at doing anything unless something good comes to mind, but you never say never.”

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Mattocks admitted that he was still developing as a player and was looking ahead to the 2015 season when speaking at the end of the last campaign.

“I’m adapting,” he said. “It’s good. I’m always going to be adapting, and next season’s going to be the same thing: keep getting better and try my best to help the team move forward.”

The Whitecaps could just be sending Mattocks out to train with other clubs in order to keep him sharp and hope that he improves as a player, but the chances are they are hoping he impresses someone and a reasonable offer comes along.

What do you make of the Darren Mattocks situation? Should he return to MLS with Vancouver for 2015?

Vancouver Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks joins Bournemouth for training stint

Vancouver Whitecaps forward, Darren Mattocks, has joined high-flying English Championship side AFC Bournemouth in a weeklong training stint.

A week in England with Bournemouth will allow Mattocks to compare his ability to those in the squad of the Championship leaders, and the pacey forward will hope to impress as the Cherries are well on their way to the Premier League at the midpoint of the season, having not lost in 14 league games now.

The Jamaican striker was drafted second overall by the Whitecaps in 2012 and has made over 70 appearances for the club, scoring 16 times. A goal return that could be significantly better and there have been rumours that Mattocks could be traded away this offseason.

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Six goals and three assists in 30 appearances last season is not a bad return, but Mattocks and the Whitecaps know he is capable of more.

“I always think I could be better, regardless of what [I do],” Mattocks said at the end of last season.

“I always can work on stuff. Movement, finishing, everything. Even if I scored a bunch of goals this season, scoring, movement, all the stuff a player needs to work on to get better over time.

“I’m adapting, it’s good. I’m always going to be adapting, and next season’s going to be the same thing: keep getting better and try my best to help the team move forward.”

What do you make of Darren Mattocks’ move to Bournemouth for a weeklong training spell?

2014 MLS Season Review: Vancouver Whitecaps

Western Conference Final Position: 5th

Western Conference Playoffs: Knockout Round

Review

Despite their agonising exit from the playoffs via a 2-1 defeat at the hands of FC Dallas, the 2014 season will go down as the best so far for the Vancouver Whitecaps since they began competing in Major League Soccer in 2011. It saw them record their highest points tally (50) – their previous best was the 48 points they accumulated last season (2013).

Best Moment

Their five-game unbeaten run at the end of the season is the biggest highlight as they charged towards the playoff positions and nipped in ahead of Portland Timbers by just one point.

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Worst Moment

The 84th minute penalty conceded by Kendall Watson after he was controversially adjudged to have handled the ball intentionally against FC Dallas in the playoff knockout game. Some will argue that it was the right call to award the spot kick, while many will say very much the opposite. Whatever way you dress it up, it’s a gut wrenching way to lose any game of soccer, let alone bow out of the playoffs. You have to sympathise for the Whitecaps who had worked ever so hard to be in such a great position this season.

Player of the Year

Pedro Morales is a name that has rightly popped up frequently when discussing the Vancouver team. The Chilean has been an inspiration in midfield and to finish the 2014 season as the top goalscorer and assist-maker at the club shows how crucial he is and will continue to be. Keeping hold of him is essential to their future.

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Biggest Win

Vancouver Whitecaps 4-1 New York Red Bulls (March 9 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-3 Portland Timbers (August 31 2014)

Portland Timbers 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (September 20 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

There are numerous positives to take from their performance this year. They have shown a gradual improvement for every season that they have been in MLS and this should fill them with confidence that they can continue to grow.

Vancouver Whitecaps points tally since participation in Major League Soccer:

Whitecaps points tallies

One area they could look to improve is up-front. They have lacked a prolific goalscorer and have relied heavily on Pedro Morales to do the business from midfield. The man with the most goals for the Whitecaps other than Morales is Darren Mattocks with six.

The news of Erick Torres becoming a free agent in the close season is interesting and he could be someone that’s on their radar as they look to fill that void.

Vancouver Whitecaps have the potential to be one of the strongest teams for the 2015 season.