Portland Timbers 2011
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The Portland Timbers' inaugural season in Major League Soccer was certainly worth the price of admission until the very end. The expansion club showed moments of brilliance — like an exhilarating five-game winning streak to open their new home, JELD-WEN Field — to disappointing lows, like a seven-game midseason winless streak.
Ultimately, the Timbers fell just short in a frantic, back-and-forth race for the final MLS Cup Playoffs spot, finishing four points shy of New York. Their record of 11-14-9 proved their inconsistent nature, as only two sides lost more games than Portland in MLS. But their 2011 was without a doubt a smash success. Off the field, the Timbers quickly became known around the league for their intensely supportive home crowds and supporters group, the Timbers Army. Portland sold out all 17 home games and have already sold out all 14,750 season tickets for the 2012 season.
One of the highpoint’s came when the Timbers stunned eventual MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy with a 3-0 victory Aug. 3 at JELD-WEN Field, ending the Galaxy’s league-high 14-game unbeaten streak. Mike Chabala, Jorge Perlaza and Eric Brunner all scored goals in the victory, while effectively neutralizing LA stars Landon Donovan and David Beckham. Making the result all the more shocking, Portland came into the match riding a six-game home winless streak and were without All-Star midfielder Jack Jewsbury.
However one moment that was hard to swallow for Portland fans was when their side squandered leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in a 3-2 home loss July 10 against archrivals, the Seattle Sounders. The defeat tarnished an elaborate and passionate effort by the Timbers Army as they watched Fredy Montero score equalizers in the 57th and 74th minutes. Seattle’s winner came off an Osvaldo Alonso penalty kick in the 83rd, extending Portland’s winless home streak to five games at the time.
The Timbers’ best goal of the year was also voted as MLS’ top strike of the season. The one standout goal of the season, the video of which eventually turned viral, came on July 2 in a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. Rookie Darlington Nagbe controlled a clear-out punch by goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen with two juggles, then unleashed a rocket into the upper 90. From the start of the play on a Jack Jewsbury free kick, the ball never touched the turf.
Portland’s goalkeeping was also a standout plus on the year, as Troy Perkins best save was also high on the MLS postseason awards list. With the Timbers clinging to a 1-0 lead in stoppage time on the road in Chicago on July 16, Troy Perkins saved the win with a kick-stop on a Marco Pappa bullet that was surely destined for the back of the net. Perkins’ save finished second only to a four-save sequence by Sounders keeper Kasey Keller in MLS Goal of the Year voting.
Midfielder Jack Jewsbury, who joined from Sporting Kansas City, was not only Portland’s first-ever MLS All-Star but was also a crucial piece of the leadership puzzle on the mostly inexperienced Timbers squad. The nine-year veteran was a calming force on the field as the orchestrator, set-piece genius and team captain. Jewsbury finished first on the team with eight assists and 22 points and second with seven goals. All marks were career highs.
With all members of the Timbers roster technically qualifying as newcomers, the team’s top newcomer to MLS was midfielder Diego Chara. Chara, 25, joined the Timbers from Colombian first-division club Deportas Tolima, where he helped orchestrate one of the most prolific offenses in the Liga Postobon. The Colombian Designated Player steadily improved throughout the season to finish with two goals and four assists. He also became the first MLS-based Colombian to earn a national team call up in more than two years.
All in all the Timbers first MLS season was a resounding success, as on and off the field Portland was developing into a soccer mad city.