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Three Portland Timbers Who Impressed in Tucson

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers have wrapped up their time in Tucson, posting a 2-1-1 record in preseason play. In those four games there was plenty to chew on, so let's take a look at three players who really stood out.

1. Diego Valeri

Let's get the obvious out of the way first. Diego Valeri is very good at soccer and he showed that off in Tucson with a series of strong performances against the Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders, and Real Salt Lake.

Of course, we know that Valeri is capable of tearing up any team in MLS, so why even mention it?

Well, with the exception of 2013, Valeri has yet to come into a season with the Timbers fully fit. 2014 saw the Maestro returning from offseason surgery to correct a sports hernia, getting off to a slower start than he would have liked. The start to 2015 was even slower for Valeri as he missed the early part of the season recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the final match of the previous year and was clearly still finding his form long after returning to the pitch.

This year Valeri is fit and primed to go. Even with the short offseason -- or maybe because of it -- the Timbers' attacking fulcrum is looking ready for March and perhaps the biggest year of his career yet.

2. Andrew Thoma

Coming into his sophomore year with the Timbers, Thoma has yet to prove himself on the field with the first team: something that is difficult to do when you have yet to make your first league appearance.

A year spent with Portland Timbers 2 in the USL, however, seems to have served the speedy left back well. While Thoma's defensive play did not particularly stand out among the Timbers' typically strong back line, his ability to get forward down the left flank was definitely on display.

Thoma has never lacked for pace, but during the 2016 Desert Friendlies he seemed to be putting it to better use than we have previously seen from him, starting with his assist to Jack McInerney for the tying goal against the Sounders -- a long, early cross to the foot of the Timbers' new striker -- and extending through his start in the mixed starting XI against RSL that saw him send in a number of dangerous crosses.

Despite his good performances, Thoma still has a long way to go if he wants to challenge for a spot in the XI. However, that now looks like a somewhat less daunting task in light of his preseason so far.

3. Neco Brett

Brett was something of an enigma coming into the preseason; a solid college striker with the ability to play out wide and plenty of flair on the ball, just how well his skills would translate to the professional game was not quite clear.

Turns out, they translate pretty darn well.

While Brett's energetic performances were all well received as he cut inside from his spot on the right wing, it was the match against the Sounders that really made him stand out. After a slow start from the first team, Brett and the Timbers' second XI came onto the field and brought an energy to the match that seemed to throw the Sounders' mixed XI off.

Brett in particular was tormenting the Sounders left flank, bringing a high energy press to bear that culminated in a moment where he won the ball off of seasoned campaigner Osvaldo Alonso and nutmegged Seattle's much heralded new left back, Joevin Jones before sending a long ball across the pitch to switch the field of play.

There are plenty of other Timbers to get excited about, of course. Who has impressed you so far this preseason?