Over the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part two of two previewing Portland's 2013 season. You can find Part 1 here.
2012 record: 8-16-10 (34 points); 34 GF / 56 GA (-22 GD)
Depth Chart: 1. Donovan Ricketts, 2. Milos Kocic, 3. Jake Gleeson
Strengths: For all intents and purposes, Ricketts was new head coach Caleb Porter’s first player acquisition, made by proxy at midseason last year before he even arrived in Portland. The Jamaican international has been there, done that and is the tall, rangy ‘keeper that Porter wanted. Kocic, a former No. 1 in Toronto, also provides experience.
Weaknesses: For every spectacular save Ricketts makes, there comes with it a hair-raising bobble or a goal kick booted out of bounds.
Wild card: Gleeson has been the No. 1 ‘keeper in waiting for three years now. Coming off a trip to the Olympics with the New Zealand U-23s and entering another season learning under Ricketts, Gleeson’s day could come sooner rather than later.
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Ryan Miller, 2. Ryan Kawulok; CB: 1. Andrew Jean-Baptiste, 2. Hanyer Mosquera, 3. David Horst, 4. Mamadou “Futty” Danso, 5. Dylan Tucker-Gangnes; LB: 1. Michael Harrington, 2. Rodney Wallace, 3. Chris Taylor
Strengths: Miller and Harrington are the type of fullbacks that fit perfectly into Porter’s system, athletic types who like to get forward. They should – should – be getting a calming, organizing presence to work with their host of young, physical central defenders.
Weaknesses: Yeah, they'll be good at set pieces, but what about defending from the run of play? Miller and Harrington will have to do a better job of shutting down service from the flanks, while in the central defense there's going to be a learning curve no matter who the pairing is. It's a recipe for some ugly miscues, especially early in the year.
Wild card: Injuries. Somehow the Timbers are already in a mini-crisis, with Horst and Mosquera both hurt. Luckily, Jean-Baptiste has stepped up throughout preseason and has generally looked very good, but he's still prone to mental mistakes. How soon he gets that out of his system could be crucial.
Depth Chart: RCM: 1. Diego Valeri, 2. Steven Evans; CM: 1. Diego Chara, 2. Ben Zemanski, 3. Jack Jewsbury; CM: 1. Will Johnson, 2. Mobi Fehr
Strengths: Two words: depth and experience. Whether Porter goes with a diamond 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3, the Timbers have potential starters two-deep across the board.
Weaknesses: Who's the primary ball-winner? Chara does good work, but usually further up the pitch. Same for Johnson. Alhassan has played some as a deep-lying playmaker, but he's not exactly a d-mid out there. And Jewsbury's hurt – does he step right back into the lineup once he's healthy? Given all that, as well as the flexible nature of the midfield, there could be some chemistry issues to combat.
Wild card: Valeri has already shown flashes of brilliance in the preseason. How the Argentine – brought in to make Portland’s offense hum – adapts to the grueling MLS regular season schedule could make or break the Timbers’ season.
Depth Chart: RF 1. Kalif Alhassan, 2. Sal Zizzo; CF 1. Ryan Johnson, 2. José Valencia; LF 1. Darlington Nagbe, 2. Danny Mwanga, 3. Sebastián Rincón.
Strengths: Nagbe and Johnson are cut from the same cloth – athletic and talented but yet to reach full potential. They’ll scare opposition on paper, but can they make it work when it counts?
Weaknesses: They're already down two forwards for the bulk of the year in Dike and Brent Richards, who both tore ACLs in preseason. Any more hits to that position could spell disaster.
Wild card: The young Valencia joined Portland with much fanfare and hype ahead of the 2012 season only to discover he needed knee surgery, which would keep him out the entire year. Now healthy and ready contribute, what could that mean in 2013?