On July 9th it will be one year since the firing of John Spencer. Crazy.
Since that dark time the Portland Timbers have hired a promising young coach, overhauled the roster and have streaked their way to 15 games without a loss. Portland currently sits third in the west and fourth in the Supporter's Shield standings. They have scored 28 goals and have conceded only 16 through 17 games.
Even with all the positives there are still 17 more games to go and a lot can change over those 17 games. Here Stacey's and my expectations for the second half of the season.
Portland will lose
At some point two impressive streaks are going to come to an end. Portland will lose and more than likely it will come on the road. It may not come until a brutal stretch in the schedule in August but it will happen. The key to the streak will be how will the loss affects the team. Sometimes after long unbeaten runs end there is a lull and a team goes on a winless streak, other times teams get right back on the horse and start another one.
Portland will compete for hardware
Do I think this is the year Portland wins something other than the Cascadia Cup? I lean towards yes but know full well that Portland has to get by some very good teams to win the USOC or the MLS cup. They still need to improve in areas, just as Stacey pointed out, in order to be serious contenders for the MLS cup. I don't know if they will win any trophies this year but what I do know is that Portland will compete and will be a difficult team to beat in any competition.
Portland will make the playoffs
I went back and looked at the lowest point total needed to make the playoffs from 2006 to last season. The lowest was 39 points in both 2006 and 2008 and the highest was 46 in 2010 and 2011. If you take the highest as the minimum amount of points needed for Portland to make the playoffs this means Portland has only to gain 16 points over the next 17 games. They need less than a point a game and currently they are averaging 1.76 points per game.
The Timbers will have a double digit goal-scorer.
At present there are three Timbers on pace to score at least 10 goals: Will Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, and Ryan Johnson. At least one of them will hit that mark, the first time a Timbers player in the MLS era will do so.
The Timbers will not win the Supporters' Shield.
It would be great to be wrong, but the Timbers haven't even held the #1 spot in the league or the Western Conference yet. They briefly shared that spot with Real Salt Lake, except that RSL had the tie-breaker. The Timbers will be in the picture until late in the season, but other teams will need to start losing for them to be real SS contenders. My money is on Montreal or Real Salt Lake to win that particular trophy.
The Timbers will get better.
This one may not be easy quantify, but I just get a sense that this team has even better soccer to show us and that we'll get to see it even more consistently.