Don’t look now but the Portland Timbers are quietly making a push in the Western Conference, and another trophy could be in the team’s future if they continue their recent form.
The defending MLS Cup champions didn’t begin 2016 the way the team would have liked to, posting a record of 3-6-3 in the team’s first 12 matches. Since, the Timbers have been one of the hottest teams in MLS, going unbeaten in their last nine games and taking 17 points away from those fixtures.
In a season where Caleb Porter’s side has seen tremendous spells of adversity, including losing key figures Will Johnson, Maxi Urruti and Jorge Villafana before the season even began, the Timbers have shown their resiliency and have now battled themselves back into a Western Conference playoff position.
At the forefront of the team’s success is attacking duo Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri, who have developed into one of the league’s most deadly one-two punches up front. With a combined 19 goals and seven assists through 21 games, the pair has not only helped sustain the club’s recent unbeaten form but also given players like Darlington Nagbe, Lucas Melano and Darren Mattocks the freedom to play bigger roles as facilitators.
While the Timbers struggled defensively throughout the early portion of 2016, Porter’s group has also rallied at the back recently, only allowing nine goals in their last nine matches. Additionally, the team has made an easy transition from outgoing goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey and found stability in front of Jake Gleeson.
The sixth-year keeper has quickly earned his share of praise in the Pacific Northwest, making 70 saves this season in 15 appearances. In games where Gleeson has started, the Timbers have gone 6-3-6.
In a congested Western Conference, the Timbers will need to continue their positive form of late as the season winds down. But with a mere three points separating teams three through six in the West the Timbers are in prime position to replicate their strong finish to last season.