For 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 2011 and ending with the league's newest addition, the Montreal Impact. This is part two of two previewing Portland's 2012 season. You can find Part 1 here.
Depth Chart: 1. Troy Perkins, 2. Jake Gleeson, 3. Joe Bendik
Strengths: Entering his seventh season in MLS, Troy Perkins is coming off a career year with the Timbers. He posted a career-high nine shutouts in 29 games and also turned in a career-high 342-minute scoreless streak that spanned an entire month. With an improved back line and another year under his belt with the Timbers, Perkins should once again be considered one of the league’s top goalkeepers in 2012.
Weaknesses: When you look past Perkins, Portland are short on goalkeeping experience. The veteran’s two backups, Jake Gleeson and Joe Bendik, are 21 and 22 years old, respectively. Gleeson, while talented as a former New Zealand youth national team member, appeared in only four games last year and made three starts, his only MLS experience. Bendik is also a promising young 'keeper who played for top-flight Norwegian club Sogndal last season, but he is a MLS rookie.
Wildcard: Gleeson and Bendik will compete for the backup spot behind Perkins. And the youth and talent of both keepers should keep Perkins on his toes.
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Lovel Palmer, 2. Steve Purdy 3. Ryan Kawulok; CB: 1. Eric Brunner – Hanyer Mosquera, 2. Mamadou “Futty” Danso, 3. Andrew Jean-Baptiste, 4. David Horst; LB: 1. Mike Chabala, 2. Rodney Wallace, 3. Chris Taylor
Strengths: Bolstering the back line was one of the front office’s priorities this offseason. They seem to have done just that, with the highest-profile addition being Colombian Hanyer Mosquera. At 6-foot-1, 175-pounds, the Timbers like his physical presence and with a number of fellow countrymen already on the team, fitting in shouldn’t be a problem. He’ll be a nice addition to the leadership provided by Eric Brunner, one of the only mainstays on the defense last year.
Weaknesses: Lovel Palmer and Mike Chabala were brought over from Houston midseason last year for their experience and ability to push the ball on offense. They sometimes struggled with faster wings, however, and their spots could be challenged by the more physical Steve Purdy and the lightning-quick Rodney Wallace.
Wildcard: Center back David Horst changed the face of Portland’s defense when he was healthy last year. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder was a beast in the middle and could make for an imposing front with the combination of him and Mosquera or Brunner. The problem is Horst is not healthy and won’t be ready until around midseason as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.
Depth Chart: LM: 1. Franck Songo’o, 2. Darlington Nagbe, 3. Kalif Alhassan; CM: 1. Jack Jewsbury, 2. Diego Chara, 3. James Marcelin, 4. Eric Alexander; RM: 1. Darlington Nagbe, 2. Eric Alexander, 3. Rodney Wallace, 4. Sal Zizzo
Strengths: The Timbers are loaded at midfield and could tinker with a number of lineups and formations. Jack Jewsbury is the team captain and was their lone MLS All-Star last season. Darlington Nagbe and Diego Chara are two of the league’s most promising young talents and will be expected to improve from up-and-down seasons last year.
Fans are clamoring for the coaching staff to push Nagbe up to forward – and Nagbe perhaps agrees – but with the addition of No. 9 Kris Boyd, last year's SuperDraft No. 2 pick will likely see his role stay as more of an attacking midfielder. Holding the ball up on the wings was a problem for Portland last season and they’ll look to Eric Alexander and Franck Songo’o, who has wowed the Timbers with brilliant preseason play, to address that issue.
Weaknesses: There’s still a lot of youth here, with Jewsbury and Songo’o as the only seasoned professionals in the group. And as the coaching staff molds the new offense around Boyd, there could be an adjustment period before things run smoothly. Keeping everyone happy will also be a challenge for the front office.
Wildcard: Alexander was on his way to stardom two years ago as a regular during Dallas’ 2010 19-game unbeaten streak, which resulted in a US national team call up. But last season he was traded to Portland and never found his niche. There’s no question Spencer likes what he can do, so look for him to have a breakout season.
Depth Chart: 1. Kris Boyd, 2. Jorge Perlaza, 3. Bright Dike, 4. Eddie Johnson
Strengths: Forward is another position with impressive depth for Portland, especially after the acquisition of Designated Player Boyd. Jorge Perlaza was second on the team last season with six goals. Boyd, the Scottish Premier League’s all-time leading goal scorer, was brought to the Timbers to jumpstart an offense that ranked 14th in MLS. If 164 goals in 296 SPL appearances is any indication, Boyd should do just that.
Weaknesses: With the resources spent on bringing Boyd to Portland, if the forward position has any weaknesses, it will be considered a major disappointment by the front office and fans. With that in mind, Boyd has faced criticism as being uninspired and unmotivated at times.
Wildcard: Bright Dike is primed to play a bigger role with the Timbers. The hulking Notre Dame graduate ruptured his Achilles in the preseason last year and returned late in the season. He’s fully healthy now and raring to go. Finding him time on the field will be a challenge for Spencer.