Today the MLS began it’s 25th season and tomorrow the Timbers will enter their tenth MLS season. It’s quite amazing how far both the league and our Timbers have come in that span so ahead of tomorrow’s 4:30 pm PT, let’s take one final evaluation of what’s to come.
How did they finish in 2019?
The Timbers scraped into the playoffs in the 6th spot in the West. It was a slow start to the season before we finally found our feet and eventually earned a spot in the Western Conference Playoffs. Our post-season run was cut short however with a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.
Biggest change from last year?
We have to say that our striker situation last year was...interesting. Our big signing Brian Fernandez delivered goals but also, some unwanted distractions. The massive emergence of Jeremy Ebobisse was a tremendous silver lining and perhaps the most notable thing to happen during the 2019 season.
What’s the one storyline we’ll be following?
Can we only pick one? I would say that the new summer striker signings will be closely scrutinized. Polish striker Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Chilean, Felipe Mora both bring plenty of experience. Niezgoda, a Designated Player, will start the 2020 season by watching the team play as he is still recovering from a knee injury. Another storyline to follow is how will the defense fair? It feels like we’ve been beating the same drum for the whole of preseason: our offense looks dangerous, but we’re worried about the backline. Let’s give the organization the benefit of the doubt and assume they have assembled a squad that they are confident of. There’s no need—and frankly no point—in sounding alarm bells based off 6 preseason games. We mustn’t forget that, as supporters, it’s our job to get behind the team from the first whistle until the very last of 2020.
Who’s out from 2019?
- Zarek Valentin (Houston Dynamo)
- Lucas Melano (Atlético Tumacán)
- Claude Dielna (Universitatea Craiova)
- Modou Jadama (Atlanta United 2)
- Foster Langsdorf (Reno 1860)
- Brian Fernandez (Club Atlético Colón)
- David Guzmán (Deportivo Saprissa)
- Kendall McIntosh (New York Red Bulls)
Who’s in for 2020?
- Jarolsaw Niezgoda
- Felipe Mora
- Dario Zuparic
- Blake Bodily
- Yimmi Chará
- Chris Duvall
What’s the new jersey?
The new Timbers home shirts are unanimously considered clean but the third kit has caused wrinkled eyebrows and groans from many. Decide for yourself. Here’s Portland rapper Aminé in our home kit...
...and Diego in our secondary kit.
Who’s the coach?
Gio Savarese enters his third season in with the Timbers, having guided them to the playoffs in both his seasons and the MLS Cup Final in his first season (2018). The Venezuelan hit the ground running having arrived from then NASL side New York Cosmos. The winning culture has continued under his reign and his brand of attacking football is enjoyed by all sections of Providence Park. His hand in transforming young Jeremy Ebobisse into a top MLS striker shouldn’t go under-appreciated and we should expect him to push one of our other young talents into a more important role again this season.
Ideal starting 11?
How the Timbers will lineup is difficult to say for the simple fact that somebody big is always going to end up on the bench. The real question is whether or not Gio will opt for two strikers or one. As our own Sam Svilar predicted this morning, a projected lineup will look something like...
Note that Mora is starting but will likely be Niezgoda when he is fit. Another possible lineup could see both strikers on the field...
This would leave DP Yimmi Chará on the bench and as the season plays out we will see who is preferred at what attacking position.
Expectations for 2020?
The offseason rebuild was clearly focused on the attacking line. After the departure of Brian Fernandez and consensus flop Lucas Melano, the Timbers delved into the market with the aim of adding firepower. Enter frame: Jaroslaw Niezgoda, Yimmi Chará and Felipe Mora. On the defensive side, we added Chris Duvall and Dario Zuparic to replace fan-favorite and Timbers cult hero Zarek Valentin and, um, Claude Dielna.
Yes our backline appears thin. But I think we need to hold our tongues and let Marco Farfan and Chris Powell make names for themselves. Powell should be eager to prove that he’s still MLS quality after flirting with a demotion to the USL and Farfan will be hungry to show that he’s going to be a reliable solution for the Timbers in the long run.
With a mostly Spanish-speaking core of attackers it will be interesting to see if Niezgoda will find chemistry with them or if Mora will have an advantage. Language barriers mean nothing when players let their footballing do the communicating and Niezgoda’s quality is evident, but being in a new stadium in a new league is always daunting. The faster the Timbers Army make him feel at home, the faster he will deliver goals. Expect both strikers (and Ebobisse) to contribute significant numbers.
If there’s anything to take away from last season it should be that we are a damn good team and organization...if not for some striker issues. Perhaps that’s why the front office was so keen on signing attacking players from the get-go. But with a fit and firing squad, the culture that’s been created in Portland should be considered one of winning, and we should aim for nothing short of another MLS Cup. We’re as excited as all of you to cheer on the Timbers in 2020. There aren’t many things in life better than a cold beer at Providence Park and hearing Timber Joey’s chainsaw! RCTID!
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