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Expansion Teams: A Comparison



Hello Stumptownfooty. My name is Ryan Gates. I will be the new contributor to this amazing website. I feel it an honor to try and supply you with thoughtful, informational and interesting stories. I hope that I can always add to the amazing community.

For a little self-introduction. I have played soccer since I was little, 4 years old, and have played at a competitive level from age 11 to College. My claim to fame is that I have played against both Nate Jaqua and Ryan Cochrane. I have also coached many teams including a College club team. Overall I would say I am a soccer fanatic and can't get enough soccer. The only thing better than soccer is my family.

With that out of the way let's talk Timbers:

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.

By looking at the expansion teams from previous years we can get an idea how we might fare during the oncoming season. It isn’t pretty. Here is how the expansion teams fared:

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.
2005: Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA
  • RSL had 20 points (.625 ppg) only ahead of ...
  • Chivas which had 18 points (.56 ppg)
2007: Toronto FC
  • Toronto ended dead last in the Eastern Conference and had 25 points (.833 ppg)
2008: San Jose Earthquakes
  • San Jose ended dead last in the Western Conference and had 33 points (1.1ppg)
2009: Seattle Sounders
  • Seattle finished third in the Western Conference with 47 points (only 1 point out of first and 1.56 ppg) and made the playoffs
2010: Philadelphia Union
  • 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
Taylor Graham Sounders
Lamar Neagle UNLV
Terry Boss NY Red Bulls, Charlotte Eagles
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado Deportivo Cali
Ben Dragavon Sounders

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.