Timbers re-boot for 2013 soccer season

For their third Major League Soccer season, the Portland Timbers
are all but starting over.

They’ve got a new coach, a cast of new players and a new style.
They’ve even got new uniforms.

It is hoped the changes can right a team that went 8-16-10 last
season and finished eighth in the Western Conference. One of the
only positives last year was the Cascadia Cup, which the Timbers
claimed in the head-to-head competition northwest rivals Seattle
and Vancouver.

Coach Caleb Porter is at the helm for the new season, which
opens at home Sunday against the New York Red Bulls.

Porter was brought in by the Timbers after fiery Scottish coach
John Spencer was let go last June. Even though Porter was hired in
August, he didn’t join the Timbers immediately so that he could
finish out his seventh season as the coach at the University of
Akron.

Porter led the Zips to an 18-1-3 record, the Mid-America
Conference championship and into the third round of the NCAA
tournament. It was the sixth straight season Akron had made it to
the postseason; the team won the national championship in 2010.

Right away, Porter established that the Timbers were moving
on.

”We’re not going to dwell on the past. We’re going to focus on
what we are going to do moving forward to be successful. By no
means am I going to talk to the players so much about what they’ve
not done or what they’ve done wrong, we’re going to talk about what
we’re going to do right moving forward,” he said when introduced
this year.

Portland shed some players, including striker Kris Boyd.
Although he was paid $1.5 million last season, the Scottish Premier
League’s all-time leading scorer never found his form in Portland
and had just seven goals in 22 games.

Porter has been quick to put his own stamp on the team, bringing
in former Akron midfielders Ben Zemanski and Michael Nanchoff.
They’ll join former Zips forward Darlington Nagbe, in his third
season with the Timbers.

Other key additions included Argentine midfielder Diego Valeri
and French defender Mikael Silvestre.

The 26-year-old Valeri has played for Argentina’s first-division
Club Atletico Lanus the past nine seasons, with 25 goals in 158
matches. He impressed in the preseason matches for the Timbers.

Silvestre brings some experience to the backfield, after playing
for English Premier League sides Manchester United from 1999-2008
and Arsenal from 2008-2010. The 35-year-old has played the past
three seasons with Werder Bremen of the German Bundesliga.

Just a few days before the start of the season the Timbers also
signed striker Frederic Piquionne to a one-year contract.

Piquionne played for EPL sides Portsmouth from 2009-10 and West
Ham from 2010-2011, after eight seasons in France’s Ligue 1. Last
season, he scored two goals in eight games while on loan to the
Doncaster Rovers. The 34-year-old is expected to join the Timbers
as soon as he receives his visa.

While Porter is known somewhat for using the 4-3-3 formation, he
said he only used it for two seasons at Akron and he favored a
4-4-2. The Timbers’ talent will dictate what system he’ll use at
the MLS level. Porter is known for a possession-oriented style,
which he called `’dominant soccer.”

”If we’re going to be a team that’s consistently winning games,
we need to move in a direction where we are a dominant team,” he
said. ”That doesn’t mean that we’re going to dominate for 90
minutes, but it means that hopefully in time. we start to move in a
direction where we’re controlling major portions of the game. And
if you’re controlling major portions of the game, then it increases
your chances of winning consistently.”

The Timbers will play in new uniforms, which were unveiled this
week in advance of the opener. While they don’t vary hugely from
the uniforms Portland has worn the past two seasons, there were
enough changes to bring out spirited debate among Portland’s fans
on social media.

They’ll have green and white uniforms and ”Rose City” red
versions. The players raved that they were lightweight.

Perhaps the one thing that has remained constant for the Timbers
is their enthusiastic supporters base. The team long ago sold out
its season ticket allotment for the coming season, even after
adding 500 more seats. There are 6,500 fans on the season ticket
waiting list.