PORTLAND, Ore. – It was only a preseason victory, but there was Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson gleefully waiving a giant Cascadia flag in front of the Timbers Army, reveling with the fans after his team defeated AIK in the finale of the Portland Tournament.
And who can blame him?
The 1-0 Timbers victory on Sunday evening at JELD-WEN Field rang a close to a weeklong event that saw giant crowds for six preseason games. And to top it off, Portland’s major offseason investment, Designated Player Kris Boyd, was the one who provided the finishing touch in his debut in a Timbers jersey.
“You want to win games, and you want to get off to a good start in the preseason,” Boyd said, addressing the media throng after the game. “We’ve given ourselves that chance now.”
The Timbers wrapped up their preseason schedule undefeated with a record of 4-0-3 (1-0-2 in the four-team Portland Tournament).
Six minutes into Boyd’s first shift with Portland, he showed exactly why the club jumped at the chance to bring him to town. He deftly headed a Jorge Perlaza cross past AIK goalkeeper Ivan Turina, igniting the crowd of 17,357.
“I just saw the ball coming in and got in front of the defender and managed to get a head on it,” Boyd said. “And luckily enough, it went in the net.”
He admitted to feeling butterflies before taking the field with his new team for the first time, and that the goal was important to get out of the way. He said he now can shift focus to continuing his work toward full fitness ahead of Portland’s first regular-season match on March 12 against Philadelphia.
“It was a good start, but the most important thing is to get the fitness out of the game,” Boyd said. “But to top it off with a goal was good. It was good to get out for 75 minutes. It was my first game in a long time. It may take a few more weeks to get up to full speed, but it felt good tonight.”
Timbers head coach John Spencer was also beaming after the big No. 9 – which the team made no question they greatly desired after last season – showed his scoring instincts.
“If you get the ball in there, he’s going to get onto it nine times out of 10,” Spencer said. “And if you’re switched off for a moment, he’s going to punish you. For him, that just gives him a complete injection of confidence. And the fans can now appreciate many more games and many more goals.”
Spencer emphasized that there’s still a lot of work to be done, but the team is starting on the right foot.
“[Boyd] wants to make this a major success,” he said. “He wants repay the faith that the owner has put in him and the faith that the coaching staff has put in him to bring him here.”
There’s just one thing that might take some getting used to for Boyd; and that’s the Timbers tradition of the game’s goal scorers raising a log in front of the Army after the match.
“It was a bit strange at first,” he said. “Hopefully I get used to it and score a few more between now and the end of the season. It was something, that’s for sure.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org