The 2021 Portland Timbers finished the regular season in fourth place but got hot in the MLS Cup Playoffs to make it to the MLS Cup Final. They lost to NYCFC in a tough game and look to recapture that magic in 2022.
Fueled by overly hoppy IPAs and one too many ironic tattoos, what do we expect from the Timbers this season?
The big acquisition for Portland this offseason is Argentinian U-22 Initiative player, David Ayala. Ayala is a defensive midfielder and cost Portland around $3.6 million dollars. He’ll be expected to compete with, and learn from, Diego Chara.
Santiago Moreno was acquired during the summer transfer window in 2021, also through the U-22 initiative. He bagged one goal and two assists in 17 matches for Portland last year.
Goalkeeper Steve Clark left on a free agent deal for the Houston Dynamo. Jeff Attinella, also a goalkeeper, retired. Portland has brought in three new keepers to compete for the spot, but it certainly won’t be easy to replace Clark and Attinella, whose play has ranged from productive to very good over the last few years.
Andy Polo’s contract was terminated after the details of an ugly domestic violence incident came to light.
Finally, Diego Valeri returned to Argentina to finish his career. Valeri saw his minutes and role drastically decreased in 2021 but still played his role as a playmaker off the bench. Losing his 2021 production shouldn’t affect Portland too much, but it still stings to lose the face of your club and a true legend.
Portland was able to re-signed Sebastian Blanco as a designated player. Blanco, after returning from an ACL injury, lit the league on fire and truly propelled Portland to MLS Cup. The bulk of the team returns as well. Josecarlos Van Rankin was re-signed on loan from Chivas for a second season and Eryk Williamson is recovering from his ACL injury and should be available for selection in the first half of the season.
The 2021 Timbers scored the second most goals in the Western Conference last year behind huge seasons from Dairon Asprilla and Sebastian Blanco. However, they conceded 52 goals and will have to get better out of the back. Neither of their recent acquisitions address any defensive concerns and they’ll be breaking in a new goalkeeper.
My take? Portland is destined to make the playoffs as a middle of the pack team, again with hopes of getting hot. They have a lot of attacking talent across the front line and in the midfield, but the defense is suspect.
What do you all think?