FC Tucson is running a series on all 12 soccer teams training and playing in Tucson during FC Tucson SoccerFest (10 MLS clubs and two international squads). We’re calling it the “Get to know…” series. While each post only scratches the surface of everything you need to know about every club, for the casual soccer fan, or non-soccer fan, these posts will provide you enough to hold your own during a soccer conversation in the stands. It beats awkward small talk about the weather. Today we get to know the Portland Timbers.

By H. Jose Bosch

Founded: 1975, original, 2009, MLS

Official team site: http://www.portlandtimbers.com/

Home field: Jeld-Wen Field

Photo courtesy of 104Muttons/Flickr

Top players: Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe (above), Franck Songo’o

Top blogs: Stumptown Footy (http://www.stumptownfooty.com/)
OregonLive.com Timbers blog (http://blog.oregonlive.com/timbers/index.html)
The Backcut (Timbers’ official team blog) (http://www.portlandtimbers.com/blog)

Supporters group: The Timbers Army (http://timbersarmy.org/)

Photo courtesy of slam szapucki/Flickr

Supporters group fun fact: In 2010, John Canzano of The Oregonian, ranked the Timbers Army No. 5 on his list of The 25 Most Influential People in Oregon Sports. Two spots ahead of Merritt Paulson. The owner of the Portland Timbers.

Highlight video you’ll want to share: Sure, the goal happened in 2011, but Darlington Nagbe’s wonder strike against Sporting Kansas City is one of the best goals you will ever see in a match.

Past: The Portland Timbers’ MLS history doesn’t go back too far but what some outside of the Pacific Northwest may not realize is that the Timbers name is much older than the MLS side.

In 1975, the North American Soccer League (NASL) awarded Portland an expansion franchise and the Portland Timbers name was born on March 8, 1975 after an open contest to name the new club. The Timbers reached the Soccer Bowl in its first NASL season but lost in the championship to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. While the team never reached the championship again, and folded in 1982, it’s brief success endeared the Portland community to soccer and created a soccer hotbed in the Rose City.

In 1985, professional soccer returned to Portland in the form of Portland FC, who played in the Western Soccer Alliance. From 1985-1990 (including a name change to the Portland Timbers in 1989) the team saw wild swings in performance but never won a title. Despite inconsistent results from season to season, the Portland squad consistently had some of the best players in the league like Brent Goulet, Scott Benedetti and a college-aged Kasey Keller. Eventually the team folded in 1990 and the Timbers name with it.

The name would once again rise from the ashes (how was this team not named the Phoenix?) in 2001, this time in the United Soccer League (USL) First Division, the second tier of American soccer. It was this itineration of the Portland Timbers that included the birth of the Timbers Army and of the team’s official mascot Timber Joey (Timber Jim was the first mascot, although he was unofficial). In 10 seasons, the Timbers finished at the top of the table just two times and reached the semifinals once.

But despite the lack of league trophies (Portland did win the Cascadia Cup in 2009 and 2010), it was this decade of support that helped officially launch Portland into MLS in 2009. The Timbers played their first MLS match on March 19, 2011, a 3-1 loss to reigning MLS Cup Champion Colorado Rapids.

Present: In two MLS seasons the Timbers have failed to make the playoffs, but they do boast one trophy in their trophy case: The 2012 Cascadia Cup. Despite two playoff-less seasons, many eyes in MLS will be on Portland because of their new coach Caleb Porter.

Porter was named the new head coach of the Timbers on August 29, 2012. In seven seasons as the University of Akron men’s soccer coach, Porter never lost a match in conference play, winning seven consecutive Mid-American Conference Championships (in five of those seasons his team won the regular season and conference tournament titles). In 2010 his Akron team also won the national championship.

How his success in college translates to success in MLS remains to be seen. But all Porter needs to do is look at fellow Western Conference coach Bruce Arena to see someone who successfully jumped from college coaching to MLS. (Arenas won MLS Cups his first two seasons coming out of college).

So far Porter and the Timbers haven’t been quiet during the offseason. On December 3, Portland executed four trades that saw defender Eric Brunner leave for Houston and defender Kosuke Kimura leave for the New York Red Bulls while the club welcomed defender Michael Harrington from Sporting Kansas City and midfielder Will Johnson from Real Salt Lake. Portland also received the homegrown player rights for defender Bryan Gallego, who played under Porter at Arkon in 2011, in the Kimura trade. (Stop. Breathe).

Then on December 12, the Timbers executed another trade, picking up forward Ryan Johnson and goalkeeper Milos Kocic from Toronto FC for allocation money and Portland’s highest first-round draft pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.

Don’t worry. Our heads are spinning, too.

Everything is hypothetical until the Timbers touchdown in Tucson, Arizona and actually begin training and playing. How all the pieces of Porter’s puzzle will fit together is going to play out in front of everyone covering MLS and the diehard fans who make their way to Tucson for the Desert Friendlies.

Can Porter and his team provide enough during spring training to provide a rosy outlook for the 2013 season in the Rose City? There probably isn’t a person who wants to answer that question more than Porter himself.

Photo via PortlandTimbers


Previous “Get to Know…” posts:
Get to know … Canada

Get to know … Denmark

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