Steven Taylor nearing Portland Timbers switch following Newcastle exit

Portland Timbers look set to bolster their backline as English centre-back Steven Taylor is on the verge of completing a move to the reigning MLS Cup champions.

Taylor has been without a club since leaving Newcastle, the club he had spent his entire career at until they were relegated from the Premier League last term.

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The 30-year-old’s contract was not renewed on Tyneside and so the tough-tackling defender is now looking for a new club after 13 seasons and 268 appearances with the Magpies.

That new club looks set to be the Portland Timbers. A report on Saturday suggested that the move to Portland was done, with ESPN’s Taylor Twellman then backing up those claims by revealing Taylor was at Providence Park for Saturday’s game against LA Galaxy.

Taylor would bring an abundance of Premier League experience to a Portland defence that has looked lapse at times this season. Caleb Porter’s team have shipped 33 goals in 22 games so far this term – the joint-third worst record in MLS.

When you also factor in that Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers are both set to see their contracts expire at the end of the current season, the move to bring in Taylor makes sense for the Timbers.

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Portland’s decision to sell goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey to Norwegian side Rosenborg BK last week has freed up space on the team’s salary cap, while also opening up another international slot that Taylor could fill.

The Timbers travel to Sporting Kansas City next weekend, but it’s perhaps more realistic to expect to see Taylor make his debut against the same opponent when SKC travel to Portland on August 7 if he does indeed complete the switch to MLS.

Would Steven Taylor be a good signing for Portland Timbers? 

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MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers

Competition: Major League Soccer – LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers

Venue: StubHub Center – Sunday, April 10 – 21:30 ET (02:30 BST)

Match Odds: LA Galaxy 5/6 – Draw 13/5 – Portland 16/5

Match Preview

LA Galaxy welcome Western Conference rivals Portland Timbers to StubHub Centre on Sunday in a standout MLS fixture this weekend.  

Galaxy currently sit fourth in the West after a solid start to the 2016 campaign which has seen them lose just once in their four outings. They come into the tie off the back of their 0-0 draw against Vancouver Whitecaps – a respectable away point which they will look to build upon this weekend.

Bruce Arena will be pleased with how his side are performing in the early stages of the season and his defensive signings have made a great impact, as they have conceded the joint-second fewest amount of goals across both conferences.

Galaxy will be more than up for this tie and as always should be feeling confident at home. They have won nine of their last 11 ties at StubHub Centre and despite their squad being hit by some injuries to key players, LA will fancy their chances here.

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Portland Timbers have endured a difficult opening four games to the new season and they must now push on and start to pick up points if they are to stand a chance at retaining their MLS Cup title.

Caleb Porter’s side are sitting 9th, in the depths of the West, and that isn’t where the defending MLS Cup holders would have been expecting to be at the start of the 2016 season. There is no need for Timbers fans to panic as the season is still in its early stages.

Portland were thumped 4-1 away at Orlando last weekend, a result that not many would have predicted, and they need to bounce back into action this time out with a much stronger showing.

The Timbers haven’t travelled well against Galaxy, with last season’s win at StubHub their first in eight attempts. Worryingly for Porter, his side have conceded nine goals in their fours outings, something he will be desperately trying to improve on so Portland can work their way back up the table.

If Portland can take at least a point here it gives them a great foundation to build upon heading into their next two games, which are both at home.

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Team News

LA Galaxy could be without up to six players for this tie with some key faces missing through injury. Dan Kennedy, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard are all expected to be out, while Giovani Dos Santos, Jeff Larentowicz and Leonardo are all doubts. There will be added pressure for those filling in, but Galaxy are fortunate to have impressive depth to the squad, so they should be able to manage without those key players.

Portland Timbers have just three injury concerns. Defensive duo Andy Thoma and Liam Ridgewell are out, along with midfielder Ben Zemanski.

Key Points

LA Galaxy’s form: W/L/W/D

Portland Timbers’ form: W/L/D/L

Key Stat: Goals – These sides have shared an astonishing 24 goals in their last five meetings. If that is anything to go by we should be in for a cracker here. 

Key Player: Gyasi Zardes – The Galaxy forward will be expected to step up and provide for his side in the absence in some of their key players. He has netted twice already this season and has the ability to provide opposition defenders will problems.

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Score Prediction

LA Galaxy 3-1 Portland Timbers – LA Galaxy are more than capable of winning this tie despite having some key faces missing from the squad. Arena will be expecting his side to take advantage of Portland’s recent struggles and continue a very strong run of home form against their opposition. True to recent meetings between these sides there will be plenty of action and goals are to be expected.

Podcast: Portland, Columbus & Southampton discussed

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast Zack Walford talks to Jamie Ives and Louis East about Week 3’s MLS action, with focus on the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew’s disappointing starts.

The team then look at Southampton FC and ask whether they have enough to secure European football next term.

As always, comment below or get in touch on Twitter with your thoughts.

Liam Ridgewell leaves Portland for short-term Brighton loan move

Liam Ridgewell has left the Portland Timbers in order to return to English football for the second year running by moving to Brighton & Hove Albion on a short-term loan deal.

Ridgewell will be eligible to play for Brighton from January 1 and will spend time with the Championship club until February 13, when he will then return to Portland to prepare for the 2016 season.

Brighton had enjoyed a fine start to the 2015/16 Championship season and were unbeaten for 21 games, until Middlesbrough beat them 3-0 two weeks ago, and Chris Hughton’s men have now not won in five.

Hughton worked with Ridgewell during their time at Birmingham City and he hopes that the signing of the versatile 31-year-old defender can help get his side back on track over the next six weeks.

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“I know Liam very well from my time as manager at Birmingham City, and he is an excellent and important addition for us,” Hughton told the club’s official website.

“He will bring extra experience to our defence at a crucial time, and will give me an option both in the centre of defence and at left-back.”

Ridgewell will hope the loan move will keep his match fitness levels up before returning to Portland as the Timbers look to retain their MLS Cup title – an achievement that Ridgewell labelled as “the best feeling of my career”.

Will Liam Ridgewell help Brighton get back on track? Are Portland fans happy to see him move back to England in another loan move?

Liam Ridgewell delighted with ‘huge’ win over DC United

The Portland Timbers ended a two-game losing streak with a 1-0 win over DC United at Providence Park on Wednesday night, keeping their fifth clean sheet of the season.

The win moves Portland off the bottom of the Western Conference and on to 16 points for the season and just two points off the playoff spots.

Liam Ridgewell helped the Timbers seal the win on Wednesday but he knows Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rapids is crucial.

“I think we fully deserve the win and it’s nice to get the three points but we have to go and do it again on Saturday and we’ll be looking forward to that.

“The clean sheet is a positive, especially for us at the back and hopefully we can keep a few more and let the center forwards go and score the goals.

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“I think from day one, from first minute we’ve really been aggressive, really on the front foot. We really wanted to show our presence tonight and I think we did that very well, certainly in the first half and gave us a little bit of a leg up.”

Portland travel to Colorado before home games against New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo and Ridgwell is hoping Wednesday’s “huge” win can help them going forward.

“It’s huge. I think a lot of people were talking about when our next win was coming and we stayed positive. Tonight we showed what we’re really about being on the front foot and like I said hopefully we’ll continue that on Saturday.”

How important was Wednesday night’s win for the Portland Timbers?

MLS Fantasy Tips: Top Defensive Picks

The third installment of our fantasy tips series sees us preview the best defensive options in the official mlssoccer.com fantasy football game.

With the 2015 MLS season fast approaching, we take a look at the best defenders to consider starting in your MLS Fantasy lineup. Here are the five we think could top the points chart this term in defence:

1. Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy) – $9.0m

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A hefty price for the LA Galaxy Designated Player should be money well spent as LA are the favourites to retain their MLS Cup title again this year. With eight clean-sheets in the 2014 regular season, Omar Gonzalez is certainly worth a look so long as your budget can stretch.

The USMNT star is also a threat at set-pieces. He scored four times last season and his experience will be key in defence and attack. One concern would be that he has been known to have injury problems.

2. Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers) – $8.5m

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Portland Timbers are expected to have a good season and Liam Ridgewell will play a huge part in any playoff push the Timbers mount. The Englishman is a free-kick specialist and can also play in midfield.

At $8.5m he is an expensive pick but he is worth a look as he has a keen eye for goal and will pick up clean-sheet points that will be so valuable for your team.

3. Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) – $9.0m

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The other half of the USMNT World Cup centre-half pairing, Matt Besler is a strong centre-back that can also pop up with a goal. Top players cost top money and Besler is valued at a price that is risky ($9.0m) but he could bring huge rewards if Sporting KC remain tight at the back.

Sporting Kansas City will be playing in the Western Conference this season but Besler should pick up some clean-sheets on the way. Last year saw Besler record his lowest fantasy points tally in three years but that was largely down to fatigue after the World Cup and he should bounce back in 2015.

4. Brek Shea (Orlando City SC) – $8.0m

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Some might say Brek Shea is a gamble but his versatility could see him move forward from left-back, where he is expected to play, throughout the season and with that he becomes more of a goal threat.

At $8.0m he is still a risk and may not settle back into MLS instantly. But he is going to get game time with Orlando City and may be worth the money so long as the Lions can remain relatively solid at the back.

5. Matt Hedges (FC Dallas) – $9.0m

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FC Dallas star Matt Hedges is a mainstay in a very good Dallas team. With the introduction of Dan Kennedy in goal, Dallas have only strengthened at the back and they are certainly contenders for the MLS Supporters’ Shield. Any club in the hunt for success needs to keep clean-sheets and Dallas are no exception.

Hedges popped up with three goals last season and that total could well increase this term. He was the fourth-highest scoring defender in 2014 and deserves serious attention.

Who do you think will be the best MLS Fantasy defender in 2015?

Liam Ridgewell returns to Portland Timbers excited for new season

Liam Ridgewell is returning to America to join back up with his Portland Timbers teammates ahead of the new season after spending the last six weeks with Wigan Athletic in the Championship.

The English defender joined Wigan at the start of January but was unable to help the Latics get out of the relegation zone in England’s second-tier despite making six appearances with five of those as starts.

He was unable to win a game with Wigan and although he is disappointed that he couldn’t help during his short stay back in England, the 30-year-old is now looking forward to his first full season in MLS with the Timbers.

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“I’d just like to wish the boys [at Wigan] all the best and hopefully they’re still in this division come the end of the season,” he told the Wigan Evening Post.

“I’ve got a lot to improve on and learn from, and take into my new season [with the Timbers]. It’s a big season ahead, and we’re looking to do really well this season and build on last year.

“We’re hoping to reach the playoffs this time and there’s some really exciting times ahead.”

Ridgewell made 15 appearances for the Portland Timbers after joining the club as a Designated Player last June, scoring two goals with one assist from defence.

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He has reiterated his delight with the decision to move to America last year and has spoken glowingly about the league and it’s continuous growth.

“I’m very glad I decided to go out there,” Ridgewell added. “It’s been very refreshing for my career, and I’m looking forward to going back.

“The league is getting better all the time, and more and more British players are seeing it as a good career move, which is great.”

Will Liam Ridgewell taste success with the Portland Timbers in 2015?

Liam Ridgewell “dying to get back on the field” after completing loan switch to Wigan

Portland Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell has completed a short-term loan move to English Championship side Wigan Athletic and will train and play with the team for about six weeks.

The 30-year-old moved to MLS with Portland last summer as a Designated Player and made 15 appearances, scoring twice with one assist in his debut campaign as the Timbers narrowly missed out on the playoffs.

He is looking forward to playing in England once again but is fully focused on getting fit in time for the start of the new MLS season in March.

“I have loved my time out in Portland and I can’t wait to get back,” he said after completing the switch to Wigan earlier today.

“But I have had a lot of time off over Christmas and I’m dying to get back on the football field and start training and I’m very glad I’ll be able to do that with Wigan.”

Liam Ridgewell on loan move to Wigan (via Wigan Athletic on YouTube):

The Latics sit second from bottom in the Championship and have only won one of their last ten league games so Ridgewell will hope to help turn things around for the 2013 FA Cup winners.

They have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 league matches so the Timbers centre-back will need to come in and shore up the backline as he did when moving to MLS last summer.

Gavin Wilkinson, Timbers general manager, revealed they had plenty of interest in the English defender but said the move to Wigan suited the Timbers best as he will back in time for the 2015 Simple Invitational on February 22.

Liam Ridgewell Portland Timbers Thumbs Up

“Liam expressed an interest in staying in the UK on a short-term loan as this offseason is longer than any he has encountered in his professional career,” Wilkinson said.

“He wants to start the 2015 MLS season on the right foot. Several clubs had contacted us in regards to taking him on loan, however with us dictating the terms and timing of this deal it was not viable for all concerned.

“We feel that this deal works well for both the player and the club. Liam will return to Portland in time to prepare for the season with the Timbers and be match fit and sharp.”

Is a short-term loan move to Wigan a good thing for Liam Ridgewell and the Portland Timbers?

Liam Ridgewell nearing Wigan switch on short-term loan deal – report

Portland Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell could be set for a return to English football in a short-term loan switch to Wigan Athletic, according to a report in The Oregonian.

The former Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Brom defender joined the Timbers as a designated player in July last year and made an immediate impact in Major League Soccer by scoring twice and picking up one assist in 15 appearances.

He helped fix Portland’s defensive woes by shoring up the backline halfway through the season and the Timbers only narrowly missed out on the playoffs come the end of the regular season.

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And he could be returning to England to play in the Championship with Wigan Athletic now, though Crystal Palace have also reportedly shown an interest.

Ridgewell will need to be back in Portland for the start of the Timbers’ annual preseason tournament, which starts on February 22.

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A move back to England will keep Ridgewell sharp and ready for the new season, but it will mean that he misses the start of preseason training with the Timbers as well as the first two preseason games.

It will also mean that he will be unable to build up a solid partnership with new signing Nat Borchers until the final two weeks of preseason training.

The Timbers kickoff the new season against Real Salt Lake on March 7 and will hope the partnership of Ridgewell and Borchers can see them challenge for the MLS Cup in 2015.

Would a return to England on loan be a good move for Liam Ridgewell?