The Portland Timbers were one of the better defense teams in the league last year with only 33 goals given up and this preseason has shown Portland looks to continue that defensively prowess. In the preseason there was a clear depth chart from the very beginning as Caleb Porter looked to create a continuity from the very beginning and allow chemistry to build quickly.
The first team defensive line-up consisted of (from left to right) Michael Harrington, Pa Modou Kah, Norberto Paparatto, and Jack Jewsbury. This line-up played in multiple games together and gave up zero goals from the run of play. The two goals they gave up were both on set pieces, one a PK and one an own goal off a short corner. While the set piece defending is a concern the chemistry the starting backline has shown is a positive and a big reason why very few shots have made it to Donovan Ricketts.
Another big reason for the lack of goals scored against the Portland Timbers during the run of play is due to the returning central midfield duo. Diego Chara and Will Johnson cover so much ground they can mask a lot of the mistakes defenders and other midfielders make. Look for that to continue as Caleb Porter continues to use them in the central part of the park and as a double pivot.
One of the biggest criticisms fans have had about Paparatto's game has been about his passing. Porter is not concerned about this aspect of his game as he had this to say about the Paparatto's play this preseason:
"First and foremost, he's just a good solid defender. So we don't want him to worry so much about being good on the ball that he forgets about being a good defender first because that's ultimately his best quality, in my opinion."
With the acquisition of Paparatto it meant that Futty Danso once again moved to the bench during the start of the season, which has happened just about every season he has played for the Portland Timbers. His partnership with Rauwshan McKenzie looks promising and shows that there is decent depth at the CB position. The outside back position was one place where Portland really lacked depth last season.
The acquisition of Jorge Villifana added depth at the left back and the extension of Alvas Powell's loan added a little more depth to the outside back position. Neither of those players will see a lot of time, Villifana especially, but having an actual left back as a backup instead of Rodney Wallace is a little comforting.
The rest of the reserves saw time during the preseason and showed some promise, especially Aaron Long and Taylor Peay. Both rookies showed they have skills and fit into Porter's system nicely. George Fochive was another acquisition that showed promise but at times also looked a little overwhelmed and was still adjusting to the speed of the professional game.
The Portland Timbers will be one of the top defensive teams in the league and the set piece defender will be much improved. With Portland shutting down teams and not allowing shots on goal they will be a very tough team to beat and continue to contend in the West.