The Portland Timbers are playing soccer again, but alas, nobody can see it. Portland has wrapped up their first 180 minutes of preseason soccer during their time in Tucson, Arizona, and unfortunately, there have been no livestream options for fans to watch the games.
But, reading between the lines (and the tweets), there are still observations to be made and takeaways to be taken from the small crumbs of soccer the Timbers have played thus far. Here are three of my thoughts on preseason in the desert thus far:
You might want to remember the name Tega Ikoba
The official scorer of Portland’s first preseason goal was none other than rising academy product Tega Ikoba. The 17-year-old forward is playing his second full preseason with the first team, and has gotten around 90 minutes of game-time thus far. And he’s made the most of it, doing, among other things, this:
17’ - Goal Tega Ikoba! Assisted by Pablo Bonilla. #RCTID | @OldTrapper pic.twitter.com/uZIfZSuev8— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) March 20, 2021
A tidy little finish from the teenager, and something we should pay attention to. Because Ikoba might be spending a little more time with the first team in the coming months.
A lot of signs are pointing towards Ikoba being on track to earn a homegrown player contract with the Timbers. He’s made consistent appearances in all of Portland’s preseason games thus far, and has shown his talent in tallying a goal. In addition, he is appearing in more of the team’s promotional content on social media. Case in point is the wildly underrated “Larrys Mabiala just hangs out and talks smack with his teammates” video, which features Ikoba pretty prominently.
Whether he truly is the fastest on the team or not (as he claims in that video), Ikoba is catching the coach staff’s attention. Giovanni Savarese said as much himself in his post-match debrief with Jake Zivin after Saturday’s game in Tucson.
At just 17, he is still a very raw striker, and there is no way of knowing what type of player he develops into. But it’s very clear that and the Timbers value his presence. He’s spending time with the first team for a reason, and it’s a good bet for Timbers fans to remember his name. There’s a chance we’ll be seeing more of him on the field in the future.
Trialists are here, and the internet is having a field day with it.
If you’ve been paying attention to the lineups for the preseason matches tweeted out by the team account, you’ll notice that they’ve been featuring the vaunted player known as “Trialist”.
At least three unnamed and non-rostered players have taken the field for the Timbers at various points over their 180 minutes of soccer they’ve played in Tucson thus far. And with the lack of any viewing options, who exactly they are remains a mystery.
A mystery to everyone, except determined internet sleuths. Social media, and in particular the Timbers reddit page, has been aflame with pictures from players’ Instagram stories, which feature the faces of the rumored trialists — even if they are from afar or “squint and that could be anyone” level of quality.
That’s not stopping the stalwarts of online from deciphering who they may be. All credit to the detectives at r/timbers, as it seems that there are possibly at least two candidates who fit the description of “left back depth” on a trial with Portland at the moment. They could possibly be MLS veteran Bernardo Anor, most recently of Venezuelan side Caracas FC, and Ismalia Jome, who bounced around the lower leagues and was most recently of Austin Bold FC (the USL one, not the Matthew McConaughey one).
There is also some evidence that a winger from FC Tucson is spending time with the Timbers in preseason, and our old 2020 friend Chris Duvall might even be training with the team as well.
It is highly likely that at least one of these suspected trialists gets signed to a first team deal, particularly one of the rumored left back trialists. Don’t be surprised if another player is brought on as well as midfield depth, before this whole thing kicks off in April.
Without livestreams, results are just numbers (for now)
Actual scores from preseason games usually don’t matter a whole lot. The main takeaways from preseason — the ones that are most relevant to the upcoming regular season — are the quality of product and passages of play we see on the field. And without any method of viewing the games, it is impossible for us as fans to know how just good or bad the Timbers have looked on the field.
It’s a bummer in itself, and it also means that we shouldn’t read too much into results at this stage. The Timbers are decidedly viewing the games as methods of evaluating players and developing new tactical wrinkles, so winning these games appears to be of secondary concern at this point.
That being said, we are just over two weeks away from results starting to really matter. Portland kicks off their Concacaf Champions League campaign on April 6 against CD Marathon in San Pedro Sula, and if they want to have any hope of making a run in the competition they have to be prepared to hit the ground running in that game.
And that means that at some point, the Timbers will need to start rounding into something resembling positive competitive form. It’s not wholly necessary, but it would do some good for the confidence of the team (and us perpetually paranoid and nervous fans) to be going into April on a high note results-wise.
So for now, dropping a scrimmage against the Rapids doesn’t mean a ton, nor does a squeaker of a 1-0 scrimmage off a crazy own goal. But as we approach the real deal, those numbers will start to matter just a bit more for the form and momentum of PTFC.