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MLS Team Guide: Portland Timbers

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Ahead of the 2021 MLS season, Richard Fleming introduces us to the teams set to face the Colorado Rapids. The first time they face the Portland Timbers will be five months into the campaign.

First season in MLS: 2011
Honors: MLS Cup winners (2015)

Stadium: Providence Park, Portland, Oregon
Head Coach: Giovanni Savarese (appointed December 2017)

History with the Rapids
These sides have met a mere 23 times, but many stick in the memory. For instance, Portland’s first-ever game in MLS came against the Rapids. It was the opening game of the 2011 season, and the Rapids were opening the defense of their MLS crown.

Kenny Cooper scored the first goal in Portland’s MLS history, but only after the home side had registered goals through Jeff Larentowicz, Omar Cummings, and Jamie Smith. The Timbers’ head coach for that game was Rapids legend John Spencer.

The Rapids won four of the first five meetings, including a 1-0 win at then-named Jeld-Wen Field. That would be their last success in Portland until the playoff-clinching 1-0 win at Providence Park last November.

Also, having won four of the first five, the Rapids have since won four of the last 18.

Notable games include the MLS return and Rapids debut for Tim Howard on 4th July 2016 (0-0), followed by a 1-0 home win that season which secured a playoff berth, with a first goal in burgundy for Sebastien Le Toux. And who could forget the 3-3 draw to open the 2019 season, when rookie Andre Shinyashiki leveled late in the snow?

Head-to-head record: 8-10-5
Last meeting: W 1-0, 11/4/20 at Providence Park

2020 Season
Columbus claimed MLS Cup, Philadelphia Union lifted the Supporters’ Shield, and Portland Timbers returned to Oregon with the MLS is Back trophy.

Their quest for the big prize was cut short by FC Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. Playing at home, the Timbers tumbled after a penalty shootout.

They had finished third in the Western Conference, on the same points as top team Sporting Kansas City (39) but having played two more games, and with the standings decided by points-per-game, the Timbers had to settle for third best in the West.

Across the season, the Timbers enjoyed long unbeaten stretches. They also had two road wins, at San Jose and LA Galaxy, in which they scored six goals on each occasion.

Out of 23 games, though, they managed just five clean sheets. Their 35 goals against was the highest of the top six teams in the Western Conference, and more than the leading eight teams in the East. An entertaining side, involved in a good number of high-scoring games, they spread the goals around.

Diego Valeri and Jeremy Ebobisse topped the scoring charts for the Timbers, netting eight goals apiece. Felipe Mora and Jaroslaw Niezgoda both bagged seven goals. Niezgoda, who started only seven of his 17 appearances, is working his way back to fitness after undergoing ACL surgery in early November.

And the Chara brothers, Yimmi and Diego, combined for 14 assists. Yimmi, in his first season, led the team in assists with eight.

Offseason Highlights
There was limited movement during the offseason by the Timbers. Two players – Larrys Mabiala and Eryk Williamson – signed contract extensions, and so remain on the roster, while Felipe Mora’s loan spell ended but he has since signed a permanent deal with the Timbers.

The departure of Marco Farfan to LAFC, and Jorge Villafaña to the Galaxy were interesting moves, though the Timbers will receive Jaroslaw Niezgoda back from injury (ACL) at some point in the early stages of the season.

Ex-Colorado Springs Switchbacks defender Ismaila Jome is another incoming player. Indeed, his best season as a pro came with the Rapids’ USL affiliate in 2019 when he registered a career-high four goals and seven assists in 34 games.

Defensively, the Timbers have tried to strengthen, bringing in Claudio Bravo from Argentine club Banfield, as well as Josecarlos Van Rankin, on loan, from Chivas Guadalajara.

Players To Watch
Yimmi Chara: four goals and a team-high eight assists in his first season in MLS, alongside his older brother Diego. Four of those eight assists came in the 5-2 win over LA Galaxy at the end of October. The Designated Player started only 12 of his 21 appearances. You have to assume his starts will increase in season two, making a Valeri-Chara combination one to be wary of in 2021.

Jeremy Ebobisse: joint-top scorer for the club in 2020, with eight goals, the 24-year-old is now in his prime. With Valeri still ticking along behind him, and the added bonus of Yimmi Chara in his second season, plus a fit-again Jaroslaw Niezgoda, expect Ebobisse to again be among the goals in 2021.

Jaroslaw Niezgoda: only Valeri and Ebobisse scored more goals than the Polish forward and Designated Player. He may have topped the scoring table for the Timbers had he not suffered a season-ending ACL injury with two games to go of the regular season. His seven goals also came from only seven starts (17 appearances). He underwent surgery in early November, and it was reported at the time that he would be sidelined for between six and eight months.

Diego Valeri: though 35 next month the Timbers veteran shows no signs of slowing down. Entering his ninth season in MLS, Valeri has a staggering 84 goals and 88 assists in 233 appearances. He also has Yimmi Chara around him so the creative responsibility no longer rests squarely on his shoulders. A classy player who makes it look effortless.

In: Claudio Bravo (Club Atlético Banfield, Argentina), Ismaila Jome (Austin Bold), Jorge Gonzalez (+++, loaned to Louisville City for 2021), Larrys Mabiala (new contract), Felipe Mora (loan move made permanent from Pumas UNAM), Josecarlos Van Rankin (Chivas Guadalajara, Mexico)

Out: Julio Cascante (Austin FC), Tomas Conechny (contract terminated by mutual consent), Chris Duvall, Marco Farfan (LAFC), Andres Flores, Jorge Villafaña (LA Galaxy)

Meetings in 2021:
September 15 (away)
October 23 (home)

Click HERE for the full Rapids schedule.

Did You Know?
It is 10 years since the Timbers entered MLS, at the start of the 2011 season. Diego Chara was signed as the club’s first-ever DP on April 13 of that year, making his debut in the sixth game of the inaugural campaign. Chara is the last remaining active player from that first season, closing in on 300 appearances for the club.

Drew Moor is the only survivor from the first meeting between these two teams, at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park on March 19, 2011. Moor’s high school teammate, Kenny Cooper, was playing for the opposition that day and scored the first MLS goal in Timbers history.

The starting 11 for the first game of 2011, against the Timbers, were the same 11 to start MLS Cup four months earlier.