With the second match of the Portland Timbers Tournament this evening (7:30 pm PST, stream available here), I thought it would be good to talk to Geoff Gibson, of SB Nation Timbers blog Stumptown Footy about the hometown team. Chivas are coming off a 2-0 loss to AIK Monday night in the opening match of the preseason tournament, while Portland tied the San Jose Earthquakes 1-1, also on Monday. Will Chivas be able to get a result against a team that they will face three times this season? We won't know until the match, but Geoff kindly filled us in on what's going on for the Timbers. Thanks very much Geoff!
The Goat Parade: What's been going on [this offseason for the Timbers]?
Stumptown Footy: Surprisingly there has not been a huge amount of turnover for the Timbers this off season. While there were a few players cut from last season most were second stringers or reservists that really didn't see much time over the season. The biggest trade away for the Timbers was Kenny Cooper to the New York Red Bulls. While he regained his form in the latter half of the season, he and John Spencer never really gelled so it made sense for both parties to move on.
As for incoming players, there have been quite a few! To shore up the backline, where the Timbers were weakest last year, they brought in Colombian Hanyer Mosquera as well as signing Generation Adidas player Andrew Jean-Baptiste. They also signed two new Designated Players in Colombian Jose Adolfo Valencia (who is actually out for the season due to knee surgery) and Scotsmen Kris Boyd, who has the SPL's goalscoring record. A few other players added helped to bring some additional depth, but nothing noteworthy.
TGP: I wanted to ask about the defense. Do you think Mosquera and Jean-Baptiste will help shore up the defense for 2012? Is this an area that you are concerned with?
SF: Jean-Baptiste still has some maturing to do and probably won't see many minutes this season. As for Mosquera, it's difficult to say right now. He didn't have a stellar game last night (and in fact scored an own goal which cost the Timbers a victory over San Jose). I still have hope that he will bring up the overall quality of the backline, but yes I'm still worried that the entire backline is the weak link.
TGP: So Boyd has been the biggest signing for the Timbers this offseason. What do you think he will contribute? Are you anticipating him to be among the league's elite goalscorers in 2012?
SF: In a word: Yes. Boyd has gotten his fair share of criticism over the years about this or that, but one thing he hasn't been criticised over is his lack of goals. While he had a tough time in Turkey due to some managerial issues that I'm not familiar with, his previous years at Rangers in Scotland were great. If he doesn't score at least double digit goals this year I'll be disappointed (barring any serious injuries of course).
Additionally, one thing I really like about him is his cavalier attitude about the whole thing. He's very honest about his abilities and he has stated that, if nothing else, the one thing he'll do this year is score goals.
TGP: Ok, which player (new or otherwise) do you think is flying under the radar heading into the season?
SF: From a national perspective? Franck Songo'o. I neglected to mention him above, but I really should have. He was a trialist brought in in January and has impressed since day one. During the few games he played in Los Angeles against the Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy he got 4 assists, which is great for any midfielder.
It's also worth noting that he has had tremendous training experience growing up in the FC Barcelona youth system and playing for Portsmouth in the EPL for a number of years (while also getting loaned out) so he's coming from some quality beginnings.
Oh and he's fairly young at only 24 so there's lots of potential for the future.
TGP: What are you expecting for the Timbers Thursday night?
SF: It's hard to say right now. The team is currently without a few key players due to international duty, visa issues or minor injuries. As such we haven't seen the Timbers were all expecting in the regular season. However, since it's a home tournament and the Timbers already botched their first game, I would say anything but a win would be worrisome heading into First Kick.
That pre-season confidence is pretty important for a second year MLS team.
TGP: Finally, what are your expectations for the Timbers this season?
SF: At the very least, the play-offs are mandatory this season. I know, it's only their second season in MLS, but with a fanbase a ravenous as the Timbers Army and an ownership group lead by a very dedicated owner it's difficult to see anything less being acceptable. As both a fan and a blogger for the team, my expectations are riding high.
A good season would be a trophy. Whether that's the MLS Cup, Open Cup, Cascadia Cup or Supporters Shield, it doesn't matter.