The Portland Timbers narrowly missed out on making the playoffs in their first MLS season, being eliminated after New York topped Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Minutes after the final whistle at Red Bull Arena, Timbers owner Merritt Paulson praised his side for coming so close, but pointed to their naivety as a potential reason for coming up short.
“We played an entertaining and fast-paced style of soccer,” Paulson said in an interview on ExtraTime Radio. “But we are a young, inexperienced and immature team and we probably fell victim to that at the end of the day.”
Paulson kept the faith that his Timbers could make the playoffs, but admitted that he always knew it would be tough to deny the Red Bulls.
"Frankly, it was always my expectation that the Red Bulls would make it into the postseason," Paulson said. "I hope our guys remember what it's like to not make the playoffs, because that's not what we expect going forward."
Portland needed New York to draw or lose to Philadelphia to still have a chance of making the playoffs going into their season finale against Real Salt Lake.
Coincidentally, Paulson said he holds RSL up as the benchmark for building a successful MLS side, and mentioned another side he admires that might surprise a few Portland fans.
“We always looked at Real Salt Lake as a model, how within three years they rebuilt and won an MLS Cup,” Paulson said. “Seattle, too, in their third year. I know it's sacrilege to point to the success to our north, but obviously they are making strides as well.”
Despite the disappointment of not reaching the playoffs, Paulson believes Portland already have a good core group to build on and are just a few additions away from being a MLS Cup contender next term.
“It’s raw right now, but as a first-year team I think we have a lot to be positive about,” Paulson said. “We have got a core that we can build from and after speaking with our coaching staff they believe we are about four players or so away from being a team that doesn’t just squeak into the playoffs, but is a clear playoff team.”