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Portland Timbers: Highlights And Lowlights So Far This Season

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


On Sunday, the Portland Timbers traveled to New York to pay a visit to expansion side NYCFC and came away with a 1-0 victory on the strength of a 79th minute goal from Darion Asprilla. Unfortunately, many of you were unable to see the game, as Fox preempted the game on its originally scheduled channel and pushed it to online-only (if you have Comcast). This was frustrating on a number of levels - not only as a Timbers fan, but as a fan of American soccer at large, to see the sport so casually brushed aside by what is supposed to be a major broadcast partner. 

With that said, this was a huge victory for Portland. The Timbers have been on the wrong side of the standings early this season with an imposing trip to rival the Seattle Sounders looming next weekend. After the match against Seattle, Portland will be 1/4th of the way through the regular season, so let's look at some of the good and bad of the Timbers' season thus far:

Good: Darlington Nagbe's Assertiveness - Caleb Porter knew coming into 2015 that playmaking maestro Diego Valeri would be missing in action for the first couple months of the season. He, along with most every astute Timbers fan, knew that Portland's offense would be exactly as creative as Darlington Nagbe made it. Thus far, he has not disappointed. While he has not scored yet this season, he has been Portland's offensive talisman, keying the attack and breaking down defenses with his dribbling and speed. The question has never been one of talent with Nagbe – since he entered the league in 2011 as the Timbers first draft pick, he has teased Portland fans with flashes of talent that few, if any, players in MLS can match. The ability to consistently dominate and key the attack has never been a part of Nagbe's game, however, until this year. Assuming he continues this level of play throughout the season, no development will end up being more significant for the Timbers this season.

Bad: Portland's Finishing - Nagbe's assertiveness and creativity has created multiple opportunities in almost every game this season; but Portland has still only scored a total of seven goals so far. The Timbers are top 5 in all of MLS in total shots taken, shots on goal, fouls taken, and corner kicks earned – and yet, they barely crack the top 10 in goals scored, and are behind four teams that have played less games than Portland has. In particular, Fanendo Adi, Maxi Uruti, and Rodney Wallace have been especially guilty of leaving potential goals on the table. If even one or two of these missed chances are converted over the past seven games, Portland's barely-acceptable 9 points might be improved by 1-4 points. 

Good: Portland's Defensive Triangle – Portland's biggest struggle last season was on the defensive end; a revolving door of center backs only partially alleviated by the arrival of Liam Ridgewell in July gave opponents chance after chance down the spine of the Portland defense. It was frustrating to watch, and it ended up costing the Timbers a playoff spot. With the offseason acquisition of Nat Borchers, Ridgewell was given the running mate he needed and Portland was given the beard they deserved. Borchers makes at least a half-dozen plays every game that are rarely flashy but are critical clearances or tackles. These are plays that were not being made last year, and Portland allowed goals as a result. But with Borchers and Ridgewell teaming well with new goalkeeper Adam Larsen-Kwarasey (who played a great game on Sunday), the spine of the Timbers' defense has never been more solid. 

Bad: Missed Opportunities – The Timbers currently sit with a record of 2 wins, 2 losses, and 3 draws, for a total of nine points which is good enough for 8th (out of 10) in the Western Conference. Portland has dropped points at home to Orlando City, LA Galaxy, and Real Salt Lake, while also dropping road points against Sporting Kansas City and Vancouver. Of these games, only Orlando City badly outplayed Portland; and in games against RSL and Vancouver, the Timbers dominated the run of play, only to drop points (draw against RSL, loss at Vancouver) to both. These matches, along with the late header given up against Los Angeles, cost Portland valuable points they will inevitably miss as the season moves along. While the Timbers may make the post-season regardless, those points may mean the difference between a bye and a first-round game played away from the friendly confines of Providence Park. 

Good and Bad: Alvas Powell - Make no mistake, Alvas Powell has made great strides and is, at only 20 years old, worthy of his position as a regular starter on a quality MLS team. His speed and dribbling ability have caused numerous problems for Portland opponents this season, and he is second on the team in completed dribbles, trailing only Nagbe. His defensive positioning has improved as well; he is picking and choosing his attacking spots better, and as a result is being caught out of position less than he was a year ago. But Powell still has a tendency to push at inopportune times and can get caught in possession, leading to breaks for opponents. Against NYCFC, one of these led to an excellent chance against Portland, with only a pitch-perfect tackle from Borchers standing between the NYCFC winger and a 1-on-1 against the goalie. Powell also lets his frustrations about missed calls spill over to the next play too often. Multiple times this season, Powell has expressed his frustration about a missed call on the attack by cynically taking down an opponent and earning a card in the process. While he has not yet been sent off in a match this season, they are completely unnecessary and only harm the team. Powell’s development has been a bright spot in Portland’s season thus far, but he still has areas to improve on to reach the top echelons of MLS wing defenders.

Thus far, Portland as a whole has earned a passing grade. They've kept touch with the rest of the Western Conference despite multiple injuries to key players. However, they have had the opportunity to do more, and instead left multiple goals and points off the board. As last season proved, a playoff spot cannot be earned in the first two months of the season, but it can be lost. Portland has done enough to stay in the hunt, which is all Timbers fans realistically hoped for through the first part of the schedule. The second quarter of the season features games against bottom feeders from both conferences in Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, and Colorado Rapids, along with two games against Houston Dynamo. In addition, both Diego Valeri and Will Johnson are expected back in the lineup in May. If the Timbers are going to make noise in the race for the Western Conference, Supporter's Shield, and MLS Cup, taking advantage of this stretch will be critical.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


Related Slideshow: Oregon’s 15 Hottest Athletes

In case you've never noticed we have plenty of attractive athletes representing the state of Oregon. Here are GoLocalPDX's Top 15 in no particular order.

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Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan, 25, is a forward for the Portland Thorns. She recently signed with the club in January of 2013 after playing for the Western New York Flash and the Seattle Sounders. She rose to prominence because of her success playing for the United States women’s national soccer team. Morgan was the youngest player to represent the U.S. during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She will once again represent team USA this summer as they prepare to head off to Canada for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.


Photo credit: Alex Morgan's Facebook page

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Meyers Leonard

Meyers Leonard, 23, was the 11th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. Over the past few years he has been diligently working with the Portland Trailblazer’s coaching staff in order to refine his game. The Illinois alumni’s hard work has been paying off considering he’s having the best season of his career. 


Photo credit: Meyers Leonard's Facebook page

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Kaylyn Kyle

Kaylyn Kyle, 26, is a Canadian soccer player who currently plays for the Portland Thorns. She is also a member of the Canadian women’s national team. Kyle was part of the 2012 Canadian national team that defeated France in the bronze medal game. She is also an ambassador for, Right To Play, which is an organization dedicated to using soccer as a resource to educate and empower children from disadvantaged communities.


Photo credit: Kaylyn Kyle's Facebook page

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Gaston Fernandez

Gaston Fernandez, 31, is a striker for the Portland Timbers. The club signed the Argentinian striker back in January of 2014. During his MLS debut with the Timbers he scored an equalizer goal that extended the Timbers unbeaten home record to sixteen. 


Photo credit: via forums.bigsoccer.com

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Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota, 21, is coming off one of the best seasons any Oregon Duck quarterback has ever experienced. He is the first Hawaiian-born athlete to ever win the Heisman trophy. This season he also led the Ducks to a 12-1 regular season record. Duck fans everywhere will be anxiously waiting to see where Mariota goes in this year’s NFL Draft. 


Photo credit: via Oregon Football's Facebook page

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Ellie Cribbins

Ellie Cribbins is a second year Blazer Dancer for the Portland Trailblazers. Cribbins is originally from Portland, Oregon but attended Oregon State University. This season proved to be a unique one for Cribbins since her sister also made the Blazer Dancers last August.


Photo credit: via Ellie Cribbin's Facebook page

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Jake Gleeson

Jake Gleeson, 24, is a New Zealand born goalie that is currently playing for the Portland Timbers. He signed with the club in February of 2011. Gleeson has taken pride over the past few years of being a young player who has worked his way up the ranks. 


Photo credit: via solofutbol.cl

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Janie Takeda

Janie Takeda, 21, is a senior outfielder for the University of Oregon. The Dallas Charge of the National Pro Fastpitch League recently drafted her 26th overall. Takeda was also selected to play on the United States women’s national team during the 2015 summer season. She is set to graduate from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication this spring. 


Photo credit: Janie Takeda's Facebook page

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Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard, 24, was the NBA’s 2012 Rookie Of The Year. He was the 4th Portland Trailblazer to ever win the award. Since then he’s been named an All-Star twice, as well as an All-NBA Third Team selection. Lillard had one of the most rememberable performances in Trailblazer history after he hit a three-pointer that defeated the Houston Rockets in game 6 of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.


Photo credit: Damian Lillard's Facebook page

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Maggie Rouse

Maggie Rouse, 20, is a junior cheerleader for the University of Oregon. She just completed her third year on the team. When she tried out as a freshman she never expected to make the squad. Yet, here she is two years later. She is currently majoring in Educational Foundations. 


Photo credit: Maggie Rouse's Facebook page

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LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge, 29, is widely considered to be one of the best power-forwards in the NBA. The Texas native is averaging 23.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season for the Portland Trailblazers. He is also a four-time NBA All-Star. On March 10th, 2015 Aldridge became the Trailblazers all-time leading rebounder.


Photo credit: LaMarcus Aldridge's Facebook page

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Kaytianna McMillan

Kaytianna McMillan is a gymnast for the Oregon State Beavers. Over the course of 2014 McMillan battled a series of injuries, yet she was still able to overcome them in order to become the Co-Champion of the 2014 NCAA University Park Regionals. Oregon State will be lucky to have her for the next couple of years.


Photo credit: Oregon State Athletics website

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Devon Allen

Devon Allen, 20, just completed his freshman year as a wide receiver for the Oregon Ducks. Not only is he the starting wide receiver for the Ducks he also runs track for the Oregon Outdoor Track and Field team. He recently earned a Gold Medal in the 110 meter hurdles during the 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Although he is recovering from a torn ACL we hope to see him back on the field during the 2015-2016 season.


Phot credit: University of Oregon Facebook page

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Chase De Leo

Chase De Leo, 19, currently plays center for the Portland Winterhawks. His quickness and overall creative offensive game earned him an invite to Team USA’s selection camp back in December of 2014. Of all 30 players who were invited, he was only one of 2 WHL players.


Photo credit: Chase De Leo's Facebook page

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Darron Thomas

Darron Thomas, 24, is a professional quarterback for the Portland Thunder of the Arena Football League. During his college days he played for the Oregon Ducks. While starting for the Ducks he led to the team to the 2011 BCS National Championship game, as well as the 2012 Rose Bowl. The Texas native recently partook in the NFL Veteran Combine with the hope of upstarting his NFL career.


Photo credit: Portland Thunder Facebook page


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