Coach Spencer doesn't want to use the term "expansion" to describe the Timbers. He wants to use "new" as a description. I agree with the premise, I just disagree with the word "new". I would say our team is "evolving" or "changing". So we are not an expansion team, nor a new team, we are an evolving team. Let me explain my reasons for this. To do so we need to look at the expansion teams that have come before us.
1998: Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion
- Chicago had 56 points (1.75 Points per game), third best in all MLS and 2nd in Western Conference and won the "Double", both MLS and open Cups
- Miami had 39 points (1.21 ppg) and came in third in the Eastern Conference, but made the playoffs.
- RSL had 20 points (.625 ppg) only ahead of ...
- Chivas which had 18 points (.56 ppg)
- Toronto ended dead last in the Eastern Conference and had 25 points (.833 ppg)
- San Jose ended dead last in the Western Conference and had 33 points (1.1ppg)
- Seattle finished third in the Western Conference with 47 points (only 1 point out of first and 1.56 ppg) and made the playoffs
- Philly ended 7th out of 8 teams, above a dreadful DC team, with 31 points(1.03 ppg)
- We will have to wait and see
NOTE: I used points per game (ppg) as another metric to show how well the team did or did not do (in 2005 the number of games went from 32 to 30 and this year it will be 34). 1.5 ppg is good enough to get you into the playoffs.
Looking at that list we have a lot of teams we could draw conjecture from. First and foremost we want to have the same success achieved by the Chicago Fire. Granted there were only 12 teams in the league that year. Also you can see that all the other expansion teams with the exception of Seattle finished in the bottom half of the league. Scared yet?
The Last Two Expansion Teams: A Closer Look
Now let’s take a closer look at Seattle and Philly rosters and their final place in the standings. By looking at them and comparing our own situation we can get an idea of how competitive the Timbers are going to be this year.
Take a look at the Philly and Seattle rosters side by side for their inaugural season, just their name and last team they played on listed:
|Philly (2010)||Seattle (2009)|
|Name||Previous Team||Name||Previous Team|
|Brad Knighton||NE Revolution||Chris Eylander||Sounders|
|Juan Diego Gonzalez||La Equidad (Colombia)||Michael Fucito||Harvard U|
|Toni Stahl||Uconn||Brad Evans||Columbus Crew|
|Danny Califf||Midtjylland (Denmark)||Patrick Ianni||Houston Dynamo|
|Michael Orozco Fiscal||San Luis (Mexico)||Tyson Wahl||Kansas City Wizards|
|Jordan Harvey||Colorado||Osvaldo Alonso||Charleston Battery|
|Cristian Arrieta||Puerto Rico Islanders||James Riley||San Jose Earthquakes|
|Sheanon Williams||Harrisburg (USL-2)||Peter Vagenas||Los Angeles Galaxy|
|Shea Salinas||San Jose||Sebastien Le Toux||Sounders|
|J.T. Noone||Harrisburg (USL-2)||Freddie Ljungberg||West Ham United|
|Eduardo Coudet||Colon (Argentina)||Steve Zakuani||U Akron|
|Fred Carreiro||DC United||Nathan Sturgis||Real Salt Lake|
|Stefani Miglioranzi||Los Angeles Galaxy||Jarrod Smith||Toronto FC|
|Kyle Nakazawa||UCLA||Tyrone Marshall||Toronto FC|
|Justin Mapp||Chicago Fire||Stephen King||Chicago Fire|
|Andrew Jacbson||DC United||Evan Brown||Wake Forest U|
|Roger Torres||America De Cali (Colombia)||Fredy Montero||Deportivo Cali|
|Sebastian Le Toux||Sounders||Kasey Keller||Fulham FC|
|Nick Zimmerman||New York||Leonardo Gonzalez||Municipal Liberia (Costa Rica)|
|Alenjandro Moreno||Columbus||Kevin Forrest||Sounders|
|Chris Seitz||Real Salt Lake||Zach Scott||Sounders|
|Amobi Okugo||UCLA||Nate Jaqua||Houston Dynamo|
|Jack McInerney||US-17 academy||Sanna Nyassi||Sounders, Ports Authority (Gambia)|
|Danny Mwanga||Oregon State||Roger Levesque||Sounders|
|Terry Boss||NY Red Bulls, Charlotte Eagles|
|Jhon Kennedy Hurtado||Deportivo Cali|
Sources for the Rosters: Seattle and Philly
Note: The number of players is different due to the fact that developmental players did not count as senior roster spots.
Trivia Note: Sebastian Le Toux played two expansion seasons in a row. Too bad one was with Philly.
Only the name and the previous team is included because I looked at a lot of different factors already. I looked at average age, experience and other stats. There was no correlation between any of the expansion teams. The teams all had different strategies and in their seasons and all finished second-to-last or last. Except for the Sounders.
So what was so different about the Sounders’ roster compared to a second-to-last place expansion side in Philly? There is only one fact that makes Seattle different: they brought up players from their USL team. Granted, not all of them had significant playing time but they had playing time together before, and therefore knew each other on the pitch and off.
So what does this all mean? Why does it matter if you bring in players that have played together?
Soccer is one sport where chemistry can have a huge affect. A good team is just that: a team. Soccer is influenced by the chemistry of your team. I have played with some great individual players over the years but the best teams I have ever been on were amazing "teams". We had amazing chemistry, and had played together for 3 or 4 years. Granted, we added and lost a few players year to year but we kept a core group of players together.
Seattle did not need a big adjustment and, while unfortunately for Philly there was no similar foundation and therefore they struggled until they gelled as a team.
What does it mean for the Portland Timbers? Looking at the Timbers roster we have gone through a process similar to Seattle. We signed players from our USL team, we have the "culture" built already and the chemistry of a core group of players. We just need to get the newest players used to playing together, which may take time. But, luckily, less time than if they all came from different teams.
The Timbers are not a new team. They are "evolving" because all we really have done is changed to a new league with some new players.