It was an inauspicious end to 2019 for the Portland Timbers... as they bowed out of the playoffs in Round 1 after ending the regular season on a downswing despite a long stretch of home games. Diego Valeri's contract was expiring and his future was in doubt while the attack sputtered.
Valeri is back in 2020 along with two new strikers in Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Felipe Mora, which should provide some firepower up top to go along with Sebastian Blanco and new DP winger Yimmi Chara, brother of Diego. Giovanni Savarese and co. will look to recapture some of the magic that saw them reach MLS Cup in 2018.
- MLS Reg. Season: 49 points (14W-13L-7D), 6th in West / 11th overall
- MLS Cup Playoffs: Eliminated in Western Conf. Round One (vs. Real Salt Lake)
- U.S. Open Cup: Eliminated in Semifinals (vs. Minnesota United)
- Diego Valeri — The 33-year-old is back after a 16-assist season as he looks to build on his already stellar MLS resume.
- Sebastian Blanco — Often overshadowed by Valeri, Blanco has shouldered the burden of leading the Timbers attack on many occasions.
- Diego Chara — Old reliable. One of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history is now joined by his younger brother in Portland.
Extratime Analysis: Portland Timbers
Key acquisitions and departures
- IN: Yimmi Chara — A winger who likes to get by players 1v1 and provide service, Yimmi is a much different player than Diego.
- IN: Jaroslaw Niezgoda/Felipe Mora — Filling one hole up top with two players, the Timbers are hoping these two can combine to score 20+ goals. There are also hints that Savarese might be favoring a two-striker system in 2020.
- IN: Dario Zuparic – Given Larrys Mabiala's age and Savarese's tendency to rotate at the center back position, Zuparic figures to be a crucial piece as the Timbers try to gain some consistency at the back.
- OUT: Brian Fernandez — Fernandez's contract was terminated following the 2019 season to leave a hole at the striker position.
- OUT: Zarek Valentin — The versatile fullback provided depth and leadership over the years. His presence is likely to be missed in the locker room.
Projected Starting XI
- Goalkeepers (3): Jeff Attinella, Steve Clark, Aljaz Ivacic
- Defenders (8): Julio Cascante, Chris Duvall, Marco Farfan, Larrys Mabiala, Jorge Moreira, Bill Tuiloma, Jorge Villafana, Dario Zuparic
- Midfielders (13): Dairon Asprilla, Sebastian Blanco, Blake Bodily, Diego Chara, Yimmi Chara, Tomas Conechny, Andres Flores, Marvin Loria, Cristhian Paredes, Andy Polo, Diego Valeri, Eryk Williamson, Renzo Zambrano
- Forwards (3): Jeremy Ebobisse, Felipe Mora, Jaroslaw Niezgoda
Armchair Analyst: Strengths and weaknesses
- Strength: The Timbers invested a lot in a lot of places – two new center forwards, a new center back, an on-loan central midfield and an on-loan right back returning, a DP winger and the legend Diego Valeri back on a TAM contract – to give Gio Savarese much more firepower and depth than he’s had the past two years. There’s also a good bit of continuity as this team should likely see only two or three new starters, most of whom are, in theory, upgrades.
- Weakness: It’s still not clear what type of system Savarese wants to run and what his preferred tactical approach will be. That meant the Timbers, in 2019, devolved into “Cross-a-Lot FC,” Not the best idea, especially when the only true center forward on the roster spends most of his time on the wing. Will the approach be more coherent in 2020?
- Ben Baer: 4th in West
- Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 5th in West
- Calen Carr: 6th in West
- Charlie Davies: 8th in West
- Matt Doyle: 4th in West
- Kristian Jack (TSN): 2nd in West
- Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 5th in West