WHY WE WILL
1. Porterball, Year 2. Last year, in spite of noticeably improved play from the beginning of the season, the Timbers started with a lot of draws. We were 0-3-1 in March alone, and drew 9 out of 16 games through June. The Timbers left a lot of points on the table as they acclimated to new teammates and a new system. With a year under our belt and the key pieces knowing what's expected of them, this year's Timbers should hit the ground running.
2. Continuity + Improvement, not overhaul. As Porter said, we tweaked the team this offseason, versus last season's overhaul. The changes we made were to bring in players who better fit Porter's system (Gata vs. RJ, Paparatto vs. Horst). The new guys should make us more effective overall, as they better compliment the core of the team we already have.
3. Chara and Johnson. Forget all the new shiny toys. Those two are Porter's engine. As long as they are healthy, we have the best central midfield in MLS. Everything else flows from there.
WHY WE WON'T
1. Depth behind Chara and Johnson. My jaw fell to the floor when the Stumptown Footy crew ranked Chara as Portland's 5th most valuable player last year. As I mentioned then, the Timbers were a different team when one of Johnson or Chara couldn't play. If one of those two, god forbid, were to miss extended time, the Timbers could be in trouble...
Last year overall the Timbers:
- Won ~58% of points available.
- Scored ~1.6 goals per game.
- Conceded ~1 goal per game.
In the midseason slump when either Johnson or Chara, or both, couldn’t start, the Timbers:
- Won ~33% of points available.
- Scored 1 goal per game.
- Conceded 2 goals per game.
2. CONCACAF Champions League. Portland received MLS' version of a Trojan Horse. The salary cap and extra games have a way of grinding MLS rosters to a nub. Portland has a number of players with injuries in their past (Valeri, Zakuani, Wallace, etc). More games on fragile legs could rob us of talent we need in the regular season.
3. No surprises. The Timbers aren't sneaking up on anyone, and Porter hasn't exactly made himself a lot of friends. We'll have a target on our back this year, Teams like the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas are re-tooling themselves in significant ways to get back on top, and of course our bogey man RSL still awaits. History isn't on our side. MLS' quest for parity has worked pretty well. Just ask 2012's Western Conference #1, the San Jose Earthquakes. The same Quakes that failed to make the playoffs in 2013.