2015 MLS season preview: Portland Timbers
- Missed MLS Cup Playoffs in 2014
- Finished 1st in West Conference in 2013
- Finished 2nd in 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League group
[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS previews for 2015 ]
Key player: Darlington Nagbe
2014 was a down year for Nagbe (one goal, seven assists) following a year of nine-and-four production in 2013. Furthermore, that lone goal came during the last game of the regular season. Nagbe’s entering his fifth year as a pro, and he’s yet to have the huge breakout season that many have been predicting for three years now. With Diego Valeri set to miss the start of the season, the onus of creating chances falls squarely on the shoulders of Nagbe, who desperately needs a fast start to the 2015 season.
Other names to watch: Valeri, Fanendo Adi and Liam Ridgewell
Head coach: Caleb Porter
Another year without playoffs in Portland, and Porter’s position will come under scrutiny. How quickly Will Johnson (broken leg) can return to action and top form as the Timbers’ midfield general will go a long way toward finding the necessary balance between the explosive attack and porous defense.
The talent to be a playoff team is there, no doubt about it — in the attacking half, at least. The defense (52 goals conceded) was a disaster in 2014. Ridgewell arrived in July and made a bit of a difference, but he’ll need to be stellar for a full season if the Rose City is to navigate the treacherous Western Conference. I have them in, but they’ll be teetering on the brink of missing out, one or two points either way.