I have said it before and I will say it again, the Portland Timbers have had a tough go of it in 2012.
After an inaugural 2011 season that saw them fall just short of the MLS Playoffs, the Timbers‘ hopes for 2012 would never be realized as the team struggled out of the gate and had a brutal July and August that essentially spoiled all hopes of an appearance in the 2012 MLS Playoffs.
Not only did the Timbers not perform well on the field, the team fired former head coach John Spencer amid their mid-season collapse and had interim coach Gavin Wilkinson criticized for his lackluster efforts with the club.
And yet, after all the hardships that Portland has gone through in 2012, the Timbers have had impressive showings as of late, drawing with both the Seattle Sounders and the MLS Western Conference leading San Jose Earthquakes before losing another tough game to Real Salt Lake.
Though the Timbers still have a mathematical shot at making the playoffs, it is fairly safe to assume that they will not make an appearance in them for the second straight year. Despite this downer at the end of the season, there is much, much more to look forward to.
And so, here is a look at the rest of Portland’s 2012 MLS Season and their outlook heading into the offseason.
The Timbers can still prove to the MLS that they are not the team many witnessed in July and August as they face a grueling schedule down the stretch that features teams all in position to make the MLS Playoffs.
Septebmer 29, 2012 – vs. D.C. United
October 7, 2012 – at Seattle Sounders FC
October 21, 2012 – at Vancouver Whitecaps FC
October 27, 2012 – vs. San Jose Earthquakes
The most notable of the games left on Portland’s schedule are their contests against the Sounders and Earthquakes.
While the Timbers have had a tough time positioning themselves in the MLS Standings, Portland has so far taken hold of the Cascadia Cup race and can at least tie for the title should they come away from one of their two remaining Cascadia matches with a win.
A Cascadia Cup victory would pay huge dividends in 2013 as the players would have something to be proud about during a tough 2012 season.
New Head Coach
After the firing of Spencer, Portland Timber’s administration sought after the best coach they thought could turn the Timbers into an MLS powerhouse.
And, just before the sun set on the month of August, the Timbers announced that Caleb Porter would be the next head coach of the Portland Timbers.
Though he will still play out his season at Akron, Porter will come to the Timbers as one of the best young minds in the game (he is, after all, only 37 years old) and will try to revitalize a team that has looked uninspired at times throughout 2012.
Porter will bring with him an NCAA Title at Akron and be reunited with Darlington Nagbe, a player he coached all the way to becoming the nation’s top college soccer player.
While it is still early on to tell exactly the route the Timbers will go during the MLS’ offseason, they should head into it with added confidence that they already have a lot of the talent in place to make a run at their first MLS Playoff appearance in 2013.
With young and talented players at every position, all the Timbers need to do is put together the puzzle that is already there.
Add in a big signing and a few trades and the Timbers could be on the fast track to becoming one of the best teams in the MLS.
The 2012 season for the Portland Timbers has been a tumultuous one.
However, with the way the organization has rallied lately and pressed on despite tough times signals that the Timbers and their army of passionate fans will be ready to rip and roar in 2013.
While the 2012 MLS Playoffs may be out of the picture, the 2013 MLS Playoff teams should already be shuddering in fear as the Portland Timber’s beast is awakening.