New Additions, Reasons for the Fans to Get Excited
After an up and down 2011 campaign, and a mostly down 2012 campaign, it appears that the Timbers are committed to changing the identity of the Club. Off the field, there is not much that needs to change.
With a storied fanbase in a city that seems more ready to embrace a winning club than most in North America, it is clear that the most urgent areas for improvement are on the field of play. The first step was to hire a coach that players and fans could get behind. That is exactly what the Timbers did in hiring Caleb Porter, and after a number of recent roster moves, it appears that the Club could be headed in the right direction.
Caleb Porter may not be a household name yet, but his previous head coaching stops give no reason to doubt that he could be special. As the current head coach of the United States U-23 team, and the former head coach at the University of Akron, Porter has been nothing short of brilliant. In 7 years at Akron, his squads won the Mid-American Conference title 7 times, including an NCAA Championship in 2010. This lead to his hire as the head coach of the U.S. U-23 team in 2011, a team that has been coached by Bob Bradley, and Bruce Arena in the past. Whether or not he can lead the Timbers to prominence is yet to be seen, but to be mentioned in the company of names like Bradley and Arena is definitely reason for optimism within the Timbers community.
That being said, all of the pressure of a club cannot fall solely on the shoulders of a young first year head coach. Coaching can only take a club so far, the players must bare just as much if not more weight on their shoulders. After last season it was clear that the Timbers needed help with scoring. Behind Chivas USA, no club in the West scored fewer goals. Up until the last two months, fans had been left wondering if help was coming. Perhaps the biggest acquisition came early in December when the Timbers acquired midfielder Will Johnson from Real Salt Lake. Johnson is a proven winner who takes turning this club into a playoff team as a personal challenge. The team also brought in striker Ryan Johnson, who will bring valuable International experience. To shore up the defense, the team traded for veteran Michael Harrington, who has enjoyed some individual success with Kansas City, and signed Ryan Miller to bolster depth. After trading out of the MLS Superdraft in December, the team traded back into last weeks draft, taking center Dylan Tucker-Gangnes, who may or may not see the field much in 2013, but will provide additional depth.
Whether or not all of the new faces will translate into on field success is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure though, fans should be excited. There is new reason for optimism at Jeld Wen Field, and it appears that this could be the year that the Timbers Army finally have a team worthy of rallying around.