After missing out on the playoffs in 2011, just their first year in the MLS, the Portland Timbers thought they had a strong enough crew to contend in the Western conference.
Despite winning their first game of the season over the Philadelphia Union 3-1, the Timbers would only scratch out two more victories in between their opener and June 17, leaving them in last place and wondering where so much promise for a young and talented team went.
Besides several MLS losses that left Portland scratching their heads, a loss to USASA Cal FC completely demoralized the team as they headed into an international break before playing two big games against a struggling Los Angeles Galaxy team and their bitter rivals, the Seattle Sounders FC.
Knowing the season could only go up from their loss to Cal FC (at least they all hoped), the Timbers have already showed great improvement from a somber start to their 2012 campaign. After losing a close game to the Los Angeles Galaxy, Portland took to a boisterous Jeld-Wen field and defeated the Seattle Sounders FC 2-1, generating much-needed momentum.
In case you missed any of the Portland Timbers first 14 games, here is a recap of what has been a so-far up-and-down 2012 season.
Best Win – Portland Timbers 2 Seattle Sounders 1
Inside of an always raucous, sold out Jeld-Wen stadium, the Portland Timbers triumphed over the Seattle Sounders FC in a pivotal momentum match.
Coming off of a hot start to the season, the Sounders were looking to re-establish the success that had led them to begin the season at 7-0-1; the Timbers were just looking for any momentum at all.
Records and statistics thrown aside in this game, the Timbers established dominance early on as they pressed the Sounders for two first-half goals. Kris Boyd scored his team leading fifth goal of the season as he found himself left wide-open in the 18th minute by a stunned Seattle defense. The Timbers would strike again very soon in the 25th minute as David Horst had a beautiful open header off of a set piece and sent it sailing past Sounders starting goalkeeper Andrew Weber.
Despite bringing the score closer in the 58th minute off of a beautiful goal by Sounders forward Eddie Johnson and being outplayed in the second half, the Timbers held on for a big win over their hated rivals.
Not only did this win elevate Portland out of last place, it also gave them the much needed confidence boost that they had been searching for all season long. Looking ahead towards the start of the second-half of the season, this win against the Sounders will seem monstrous in terms of relevance to the squad over any other match they play this year.
Worst Loss – Portland Timbers 0 Cal FC 1
If the win over the Sounders was the highest of highs for the Timbers, it was only partially so because of the agonizing loss they had incurred just three-and-a-half weeks earlier to USASA team Cal FC.
Clearly outplaying their visiting understudies from the South, the Timbers were unable to convert any of the many opportunities they had in the game, thus giving Cal FC the chance to become just the second amateur team in history to defeat an MLS squad without needing penalty kicks.
After this loss, many had no idea what to think about the Timbers. Fans were left in disbelief. The team was shaken up.
Though the high of the Sounders victory has alleviated a lot of the pain of losing such a foe as Cal FC, the heartache of this loss will linger throughout history and go down as one of the blackest marks in relation to the Portland Timbers.
Top Player – Kris Boyd – Forward
There is no doubt in the mind of any Timbers fan that their player of the year so far has been newcomer Kris Boyd.
Making his MLS debut this season, Boyd came over from Scotland with quite the soccer reputation and resume already in hand.
The leading goal-scorer in Scottish Premier League history, Boyd established himself early and often as one of the best players to touch United States soil this year. Throughout his many appearances for the Timbers (he has appeared in all 14 games), Boyd has contributed more physically, emotionally, and mentally than any other player on the Timbers’ squad.
Playing an average length of around 87 minutes per game, Boyd leads the team in goals (5), shots (44), and shots on goal (19).
Although he is credited with just one assist this 2012 MLS season, Boyd brings more to the team than can really be seen. Being the caliber of player that he is, many people forget to recognize how much he opens up lanes for other players to use, as many defenders swarm around Boyd in order to prevent opportunities for the Scottish Striker.
If you take Boyd out of the equation during the first half of the MLS season, it is likely that the Timbers would find themselves in an even worse place than they did prior to their win against Seattle.
Most Improved Player – Franck Songo’o
Franck Songo’o is another newcomer to Portland that has been fairly beneficial to the Timbers.
Never establishing himself as a well-known presence internationally, Songo’o is beginning to make himself a household name to Timbers fans.
Though he is still without a goal this season, he has impressively put 6 of his 11 shots on goal and has also made two consecutive starts.
Look for Songo’o too keep contributing for the Timbers and make more of his presence felt as
Best Rookie – Kris Boyd – Forward
Is this really fair?
In terms of MLS play, why yes it is.
Although Boyd has had valuable experience abroad and already proven himself on the international stage, he is still technically a rookie to the MLS.
Take that, logic.
Needs Improvement – Lovel Palmer
Maybe it is age taking effect, but there is just something about Lovel Palmer this year that has seemed off. After starting all fifteen games he appeared in last season, Palmer has been struggling this year to find his position with the Portland Timbers.
Alternating between defense and midfield, Palmer has shown glimpses of greatness but has largely been inefficient for the Timbers, thus resulting in him seeing much less playing time than we would have come to expect at the beginning of the year.
While it is acceptable for him to have no goals at this point of the season, his nine fouls committed at this point of the season are already somewhat of a black spot on his 2012 campaign.
An improved Palmer should give the Timbers the momentum and stability in the backfield they need to make a second-half push.
Coming off of a huge win against Seattle, Portland has a ton of momentum heading towards a second-half playoff run in the MLS.
Here are the most important games left for the Timbers on their 2012 MLS schedule:
July 3 vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Trying to keep momentum in the West going, the Timbers will take on the Earthquakes at Jeld-Wen field. The Earthquakes are currently the leaders in the Western conference and will be a pivotal proving game for the Timbers.
July 7 at Real Salt Lake
With a game against Real Salt Lake, the Timbers will be playing back-to-back games against the number one and number two teams in the MLS Western Conference, something that will either crush or elevate Portland’s hopes of gaining status in the Western division.
- August 19 at New York Red Bulls
- August 25 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
- September 15 vs. Seattle Sounders FC
- September 19 at San Jose Earthquakes
- September 22 at Real Salt Lake
- October 7 at Seattle Sounders FC
- October 27 vs. San Jose Earthquakes
If it not evident by the schedule above, just about every game left on the schedule is critical for the Portland Timbers as they continue their resurgence in the MLS.
Best Goal – Kris Boyd against Philadelphia Union
Kris Boyd should really leave some love for his teammates.
Drawn even at 1-1, Boyd had a brilliant misdirection header from the top-left portion of the 6-yard box. Boyd burst onto the Portland scene with this goal and it is one of the finest pieces of finesse in the MLS this year.
If you don’t believe me, just try to do it yourself.