It's been a grim year. With Kenny Cooper being traded to the New York Red Bulls and thereafter scoring goals like a mad man, Troy Perkins (a fan favorite) being traded and publicly dissed by Gavin Wilkinson, and John Spencer being fired it's been a whirlwind of crap that Portland Timbers fans have had to deal with this year. No mistake about it, this season will go down in infamy as one of the Timbers' worst.
And while some of this stuff might have you feeling down heading into the off season, it's not all bad news. In fact, with the off season comes a light at the end of the tunnel in five very important reasons to be excited for 2013.
This is an easy one, but should be just as exciting regardless. As we all know, the MLS SuperDraft is held every January and is an opportunity for MLS teams to secure top level talent from the NCAA's ranks. The Portland Timbers have so far acquired both Darlington Nagbe and Andrew-Jean Baptiste in the SuperDraft so far. While neither of those players have been particularly great for the team yet (key word) the caliber of players being brought out of the SuperDraft is still fairly high. Just look at DC United's Nick De Leon, or Houston's Will Bruin.
If Portland does their homework -- and with Caleb Porter how could they not? -- then expect Portland's current 4th over all pick to be a good one.
Caleb Porter's Arrival
There's nothing more exciting, in my opinion, that the arrival of a new head coach. They might not be the star player, or physically able to alter a game on the field, but they're largely responsible for the entire make up of the team and the tactics they use... and Porter is certainly going to shake things up.
But let's put it into perspective a little bit:
Caleb Porter isn't just any new head coach. When the Timbers hired John Spencer he wasn't a high valued target, nor was he given a ridiculous amount of money by a college or hired by US Soccer. And while he was briefly entertaining the idea of being the head coach for DC United in 2009-2010, he ultimately chose to stay with Akron for 5 more years. The fact that he specifically left that job to come to Portland should indicate that he has a vision for this team going forward and that will hopefully yield positive results all around.
Jose Adolfo Valencia
Valencia, or El Trencito, was originally a fairly exciting prospect heading into 2012. A young DP and the son of a former MLS star striker is nothing to scoff at. Now that he is returning to full health, we can hopefully return to the same level of excitement as when he was signed in the first place because here's the reality of the situation:
Caleb Porter likes younger players. They fit his style of play and he's used to coaching players under 23. Darlington Nagbe being one of his star pupils. Along with Valencia, Mwanga and even Rincon he's going to have a cadre of young forwards at his disposal to mold into the kind of players he needs and likes.
I'm not certain that Valencia will see much playing time next year (though I'm sure we'll see him at least a little bit) but the fact that he's healthy and will be playing under a head coach who prefers young strikers has to be at least a little exciting.
Cramped. That's one word that opposing players and coaches have used to describe Jeld-Wen Field. For good reason too: at 110x70 yards the Jelly is the smallest field in MLS and it shows in the Timbers almost panicked passing, dribbling and long balling up and down the field. Bottom line, a small field just doesn't produce pretty, technical soccer.
In 2013, however, the size of the field will be expanded by 4 yards to be 110x74. That might not sound like a lot, but it is. The new size will add an extra 6 feet on each side of the field allowing wingers more room to get around tight defenses and it will allow the midfielders to breath a little easier without having opposing players fall on top of them as they try to move the ball up.
It's coming. You can feel it in the air. You can see it on the horizon. Heck, even the Timbers FO staff have hinted at it. This off season, the Timbers will be rebuilt. Dead weight players will be let go or traded and new players brought in. Who exactly will come and who will go? I don't know for certain. Really it will boil down to who Caleb Porter likes and doesn't like. One thing is for sure though, for those of you who feel like this year's team is a dud, expect something different next year.
I honestly would be surprised if 15 of the current players make the roster next year.
What are you excited for in 2013?