PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - For their third Major League Soccer season, the Portland Timbers are all but starting over.
They’ve got a new coach, a cast of new players and a new style. They’ve even got new uniforms.
It is hoped the changes can right a team that went 8-16-10 last season and finished eighth in the Western Conference. One of the only positives last year was the Cascadia Cup, which the Timbers claimed in the head-to-head competition with northwest rivals Seattle and Vancouver.
Coach Caleb Porter is at the helm for the new season, which opens at home Sunday against the new-look New York Red Bulls.
Porter was brought in by the Timbers after fiery Scottish coach John Spencer was let go last June. Even though Porter was hired in August, he didn’t join the Timbers immediately so that he could finish out his seventh season as the coach at the University of Akron.
Porter led the Zips to an 18-1-3 record, the Mid-America Conference championship and into the third round of the NCAA tournament. It was the sixth straight season Akron had made it to the postseason; the team won the national championship in 2010.
Right away, Porter established that the Timbers were moving on.
“We’re not going to dwell on the past. We’re going to focus on what we are going to do moving forward to be successful. By no means am I going to talk to the players so much about what they’ve not done or what they’ve done wrong, we’re going to talk about what we’re going to do right moving forward,” he said when introduced this year.
Portland shed some players, including striker Kris Boyd. Although he was paid $1.5 million last season, the Scottish Premier League’s all-time leading scorer never found his form in Portland and had just seven goals in 22 games.
Porter has been quick to put his own stamp on the team, bringing in former Akron midfielders Ben Zemanski and Michael Nanchoff. They’ll join former Zips forward Darlington Nagbe, in his third season with the Timbers.
Other key additions included Argentine midfielder Diego Valeri and French defender Mikael Silvestre.
Just a few days before the start of the season the Timbers also signed striker Frederic Piquionne to a one-year contract.
New York (16-9-9) also underwent a significant offseason transition. Hans Backe is gone as coach, replaced by Mike Petke. Thierry Henry returns for his third full season while Kenny Cooper and Rafa Marquez are gone. Tim Cahill will be in his first full season with the Red Bulls after signing last summer from Everton in the hopes of finally finding a postseason breakthrough.
“To have a preseason with this team, with a new coach, new players, it’s important I feel because to get the understanding because we’ve practically got a new working staff in the background and probably about six or seven new players,” Cahill said. “It’s basically a new team. It’s something that spending these four or six weeks together is going to be important for the outcome of the season.”
The Red Bulls, who have never won a major trophy, were eliminated in the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals by D.C. United.
New York owns two wins and a draw in three all-time meetings with Portland.