By JOSE M. ROMERO
The Portland Timbers have set up a 24/7 webcam through which visitors to the club's web site can watch the renovation of PGE Park.
The work began earlier this month, even though the USSF-Division II Timbers are still playing out the final games of their 2010 season. Portland has two regular-season games on the road before the league playoffs began, and the team will have to play home postseason matches at other area facilities.
Via the webcam, it seems like there is still so much to be done to make the stadium soccer-ready, and the pace of work is quick with the next MLS season roughly six months away. Meanwhile, the cars and MAX light-rail trains whiz by on Southwest 18th Avenue adjacent to the urban stadium.
The constant motion and activity is a symbolic of what's going on within the organization these days. Player signings are imminent, new head coach John Spencer has been attending USSF Timbers' games and practices in order to evaluate which current players could make the jump to MLS, and Spencer and technical director Gavin Wilkinson are planning scouting trips while checking with their network of sources in search of potential players.
"We're leaving no stone unturned," Spencer said recently.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber was recently in the city for the stadium renovation groundbreaking ceremony. He told The Oregonian newspaper that the Timbers' recent placement of a billboard near downtown Seattle was "terrific," and that he loves the Timbers' aggressive marketing approach. He also said he can feel the buzz for MLS in the city, more so than in other cities.
The rivalry between the Timbers and Seattle Sounders in MLS hasn't even hit the pitch yet.
The Timbers are on pace for 10,000 season tickets sold by the end of the year, according to a team representative, and before the year is out, the team will have made its expansion draft selections. Portland has the first pick over Vancouver, the other 2011 MLS entrant, in the expansion draft, and Wilkinson has said that he already has created a list of potentially unprotected players.
One can only imagine which Sounders players are on that list, and the likelihood of one being chosen.
Then comes the MLS Superdraft to open the new year – will the Timbers, who have the second overall pick, take a shot at highly-touted Omar Salgado, the teenage phenom who recently trained with Portland?
There's also an official kit and team apparel unveiling in the works.
In short, Portland is putting everything together as we draw closer to the Timbers arrival in MLS. There is plenty of reason for excitement in Portland, and Timbers fans will be able to follow every step of it online.