Timbers season opener

Timbers season always starts with a ton of buzz. They have one of the best, if not the best, group of supporters—the Timbers Army. This team has the entire city behind them, as well as top players who make the Timbers worth the price of admission. They have have sold out every home match since their 2011 inaugural season in MLS.

In 2013 they signed Diego Valeri, who led them to the top of the Western Conference standings. Caleb Porter also entered the scene as the Head Coach of the Portland Timbers who nearly guided them to the MLS Cup. The year ended with a loss to Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference finals.

In 2014, however, they missed the playoffs. The Timbers saw their captain Will Johnson go down as well as their top scorer and assist leader Diego Valeri. The captain went down with a broken leg in a regular season match against Toronto FC last September. Valeri tore his ACL on the last day of the season against FC Dallas. Both players are expected back in May. Losing these two players to severe injuries has already seen a change in the play of the Timbers this season without their availability.

This season the Timbers are hoping to regain some of their 2013 magic and make a run in the playoffs. 2015 is going to be a year where the Portland Timbers’ depth will be tested. It also brings the sold-out crowds.

Let the games begin

March 7, 2015, was the opening day for the Portland Timbers. Coming to town was Real Salt Lake with U.S. National Team goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman. Portland was shorthanded in this match with the injuries to midfielders Johnson, Valeri, Ben Zemanski, and Diego Chara. The Timbers added Nat Borchers from Real Salt Lake via trade to pair at center back with Designated Player Liam Ridgewell.

Starting in goal was Ghanaian International goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey, who signed with Portland in December. Completing the defense at left and right back were Jorge Villafaña and Jamaican International Alvas Powell. Starting in defensive midfield for Johnson and Chara were Jack Jewsbury and George Fochive, a second-year player from the University of Connecticut, drafted in the third round (39th overall) of the MLS SuperDraft. Also at midfield were Darlington Nagbe with Rodney Wallace and Dairon Asprilla on the wings. Asprilla was signed in December from Colombian Primera Division side Alianza Petrolera. Starting as the lone target man was DP Fanendo Adi.

In their first match the Timbers had an 18-9 advantage in total shots, a 6-2 advantage shots on goal, and an 11-0 advantage in corner kicks. Overall, possession slightly favored Real Salt Lake at 53 percent to Portland at 47 percent. This game saw chances to score goals constantly denied by the defense and goalkeepers of both teams. This game was very physical, shown by the 41 fouls and five yellow cards during this meeting between these Western rivals. Rimando finished with five saves and Kwarasey finished with two saves to preserve their shutouts. The 0-0 draw gave each team a point in the opener.

The second game of the MLS season was at home against the reigning MLS Cup winners, the LA Galaxy. Diego Chara was back in the lineup for the Timbers, who kept their starting 11 the same with the addition of Chara. The reigning champions were led by Irish International striker Robbie Keane, who was the MLS Cup MVP in 2014. His forward tandem would also include recent US National Team member Gyasi Zardes. Their defense is led by national team member Omar Gonzalez. The LA Galaxy possessed the ball for 55 percent of the game while the Timbers had it for 45 percent. The total shots favored the Galaxy 13–8, shots on target were equal at four apiece, and the Galaxy had the advantage in corners at 6–4.

This game saw the Timbers score their first goal in the 31st minute. Kwarasey threw a ball to Chara who played it on the left wing to Nagbe who got the ball to Wallace with an incredible backheel flick. Wallace then slid a pass to Adi in the box, who fired a right-footed curler past LA’s keeper Brian Rowe in the far post. Zardes responded, however, in the 65th minute with a header from a Villareal cross that tied the game. In the 90th minute, Adi struck again for a brace that put the Timbers up 2-1 by taking a touch to hold off defenders. Heartbreak struck in the 92nd minute as substitute Alan Gordon came through with a header to equalize. The game ended at 2-2 giving Portland their second straight home draw. Nagbe was influential in both goals that saw Adi finish for a brace.

Their first road test was against Sporting KC who has stars from the 2014 World Cup in national team members Matt Besler (center back) and Graham Zusi (midfielder). The Timbers used their same lineup from their LA Galaxy match. This game saw equal possession with the home side having an advantage in total shots 16-7, the Timbers had a 3-2 advantage on shots on goal, and the Sporting KC had a 6-4 in corners. The defense held up for both sides as Luis Marin and Adam Kwarasey had three and two saves apiece to preserve a scoreless draw, respectively.

The Portland Timbers are now (0-0-3, 3pts) with a Cascadia match-up coming up against the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road at the BC Place.