Author: Arielle Castillo | Cover illustration by Duane Tomaszewski
Riding high on their 2015 MLS Cup win, as defending champs, the Portland Timbers saw 2016 end perhaps in the worst way possible: the trophy going instead to their archrivals from Seattle. They couldn’t console themselves with a deep playoffs run, either – in fact, Portland finished out the season below the red line in the Western Conference. But despite that spate of bad luck, promising vertebrae of the team’s backbone remain, and they‘ll surely come into 2017 fueled to make good again.
Key Offseason Transactions
|KEY PLAYERS IN:||KEY PLAYERS OUT:|
|Sebastian Blanco (M)|
David Guzman (M)
Jeremy Ebobisse (F) All transactions
|Nat Borchers (D)|
Lucas Melano (F)
Steven Taylor (D)
Jermaine Taylor (D)
Player to watch: Diego Valeri
Leaving aside his diehard love for Portland, his philanthropy and charity works, and the calming life advice gently doled out on his Twitter account – the Argentine still dazzles on the field. An attacking midfielder with a near-unparalleled creative spark, he managed 14 goals and seven assists in 30 games played in 2016.
How they'll play
HEAD COACH - CALEB PORTER
Porter himself noted that most of the team's goals had come from the No. 9 and No. 10 roles during 2016. His signing of Sebastian Blanco, to likely play alongside Darlington Nagbe, signals an increased focus on production from the wings. Defense, however, remains a problem; we can expect to see some experiments, and a search for a steady starter, particularly at center back.
Project Starting XI
4-2-3-1, right to left: Jake Gleeson (GK) — Alvas Powell (D), Lawrence Olum (D), Liam Ridgewell (D), Vytas (D) — Diego Chara (M), David Guzman (M) — Sebastian Blanco (M/F), Diego Valeri (M), Darlington Nagbe (M) – Fanendo Adi (F)
6th in Western Conference. With this likely creative, attacking combination up top, the Timbers will no doubt continue to prove deadly in the offense. They'll just need to really battle to stop conceding so many goals – their 53 goals against, in 2016, proved the worst in the Western Conference, after all. Still, there's only room to improve, and it's a safe bet they'll finish at least above the red line.