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Fanendo Adi: New-look Timbers capable of "something special" in 2017

BEAVERTON, Ore. – After last year’s high expectations ended in failure to secure a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Portland Timbers are coming into the 2017 season with something to prove.

Big changes to the side and a strong preseason have the team optimistic as Friday’s season opener (9:30 pm ET | FS1, MLS LIVE in Canada) against MLS newcomers Minnesota United draws near.

“We are hoping that it is going to be a very good season,” striker Fanendo Adi told the press at training on Tuesday. “We had a very successful preseason, playing friendly games against very good teams, so we are hoping that will translate into the games that matter the most. Hopefully we will go into the game on Friday with confidence from our last game.”

Of course, the Timbers have had their fair share of success in recent years. They finished the 2013 season on top of the West before making a run to the Conference Championship in the postseason, then surged to MLS Cup 2015, where their 2-1 win over Columbus Crew SC made history for the club.

In both of those seasons, the Timbers were bouncing back from disappointment. The 2012 season marked Portland’s worst year in their MLS era, forcing the club to make their only coaching change since joining the league as they finished second-to-last in the West. The 2014 campaign, like 2016, was saddled with high expectations after the Timbers’ first-place finish in their conference the year before. But a slow start to the season saw them fall just short of a playoff spot, missing out on the sixth and final seed by a single point.

The Timbers would like to break out of their boom-and-bust cycle. Yet for now, they’re focused on moving past the disappointments of 2016 as they start a new season.

“Everyone needed to rest after 34 games in the season,” said Adi. “It was a good offseason, but now that we are back there is just one thing on the plate: we play for trophies, we play to win games as they come. We are going to lose some, but the focus of every game is to come into the game and win.

The Timbers’ leading scorer for the last two seasons, Adi believes it is the players behind him in the formation that could make this season special.

“I think we have had great teams [in previous years], but right now there is something special about the front four, the front six, and the entire team,” said the Nigerian. “I have got really great players behind me right now that will make my job easier and I just have to play to their strengths as well as they play to my strengths. All I can say is that I believe it is going to be a great year.”  


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