What a week it’s been for Timbers supporters.
After a rather tame few months in the offseason, in the past seven days the Timbers have locked in Diego Valeri as a TAM player and released its 2020 schedule.
When the schedule is released, it’s always fun to take an initial glimpse and predict how the season may go.
The Timbers will be playing 13 games on national television, including one on ABC, and there will be no road trip longer than three games. While there will not be any home-stand longer than two games this season, what we know for sure is that there will be no long season-opening road trip for the first time in three seasons.
For an initial synopsis of the schedule and the team’s press release, be sure to check out our own Will Conwell’s article from yesterday.
Start making your 2020 plans - our 10th @MLS season awaits.— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) December 19, 2019
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Games Worth Noting
April 19: @Atlanta United FC
While the two teams are scheduled to play one another once a season, there have already been some feisty and exciting match-ups between the Timbers and Atlanta United since the five-stripes joined MLS in 2017.
This will be Portland’s first trip back to Atlanta since the 2018 MLS Cup Final, where they fell 2-0. The Timbers are also yet to take all three points from a match-up against Atlanta, falling 2-0 at home a season ago.
This will be a difficult game for the Timbers and in one of the more hostile environments in MLS. It should be a good match and an early-season test for Saverese and the Timbers.
May 17: vs. Seattle Sounders FC
Just two weeks after hosting Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the Timbers will get their first shot at the reigning (yuck) Cascadia and MLS Cup holders, Seattle Sounders.
Everyone knows what happened the last time the Sounders came to town. The Timbers fell 2-1 to their bitter rivals, ceding the Cascadia Cup in the process. Portland almost had its shot at revenge in the playoffs yet again, but couldn’t advance past Real Salt Lake in the first round.
The mid-May match up is slated to be the Timbers only regular-season chance to beat the Sounders at home, barring the inevitable U.S Open Cup first round draw.
July 1: vs. Columbus Crew SC
If you can only find the time to attend one 7:30 p.m mid-week game this season, the early July match-up against Columbus may be your best bet.
Two prevalent members of the Timbers 2015 MLS Cup-winning team will be making the trip to Providence Park. While Darlington Nagbe visited last season with Atlanta United, head coach Caleb Porter will be on the sidelines for the first time since stepping down after the 2017 season.
Regardless of where in the standings both teams sit by July, and despite how either coach decides to rotate their teams for the mid-week match, the game against Columbus will have plenty of storylines that just could justify staying up until 10 p.m on a weeknight.
August 30: vs. LAFC
The reigning MLS Shield winners will be making their only trip to Portland near the end of the season.
A season ago, the Timbers played LAFC three times, losing twice in regular-season matches, but also becoming the first team to beat the red-hot LAFC at Banc of California Stadium last season.
LAFC doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon and has the talent to be near the top of the Western Conference standings once again. The game will be nationally televised on FS1 and could be a statement late-season home game as teams continue to jostle for playoff position.
March 8 & August 16: vs. Nashville SC & Inter Miami CF
Portland will be hosting both of this season’s expansion franchises at Providence Park. They will play Nashville both home and away before mid-July and then play David Beckham’s Inter Miami team in August.
The Timbers have no experience against either team and do not know what to expect outside of the players on the rosters, but they do have a good record in their first against recent expansion franchises. Outside of losing to FC Cincinnati a season ago and Orlando City in 2015, they got a least a point in their first games against Atlanta United, Minnesota United, LAFC, and NYCFC.
Portland will not be traveling to Miami this season.
Early-season home cooking
Unlike seasons past, the Timbers open with plenty of home games between March 28 and May 2. During that one-month stretch, Portland will play four of six games in the friendly confines of Providence Park.
The Timbers will host the Philadelphia Union before flying to Houston to take on Zarek Valentin and the Dynamo. They will then return to Portland to take on FC Dallas, travel across the country to take on Atlanta United, and then host Vancouver and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
If the Timbers are able to capitalize on their home games and steal some points on the road, this stretch of games could give the team a nice amount of cushion before heading into the more difficult portions of the schedule.
Mid-season three-game road trip
Looking through the schedule, one stretch that stands out comes in the middle of the season when the Timbers will be on the road for three-consecutive games between May 23 and May 30.
The trip starts in Minnesota against the Loons before a midweek match-up at Soldier Field against Chicago Fire FC. The trip ends in Orlando City, making for a grueling three-game stretch that could test Savarese when it comes to rotating the lineup.
If the Timbers can take even four or five points from that stretch, it could be considered a success: They’ve yet to win in Minnesota, and things tend to get crazy in Orlando. (You don’t have to look farther than the team’s last visit to Central Florida.)
While Portland does not have any extended road trips this season, that stretch in mid-May could prove to be a key nine-point week a few months into the season.
Late-season Western Conference gauntlet
As summer concludes, the schedule will only be heating up for the Timbers.
After back-to-back games against Eastern Conference opponents, Portland begins a stretch of four-consecutive games against Western Conference teams, three being on the road, that could determine playoff positioning.
It kicks off with a mid-day match-up against the Sounders at Centurylink Field, followed by a home match against LAFC. After that, Portland will play two road games, starting in Dallas before traveling to San Jose to cap the stretch off.
What makes this part of the schedule all the more complicated is that this is where the Timbers began to tail off a season ago. While there won’t be as many three-game weeks in the final weeks of the season, gathering as many points as possible off of stretches like these could either help the Timbers separate themselves from the pack or make up ground as teams focuses shift towards the playoffs.
So, what are your thoughts on the schedule? What are your dream (or reality) away days this season? Let us know in the comments below!
And just one more thing: The regular season kicks off in just 72 days.