The Portland Timbers` sophomore season in Major League Soccer was a huge disappointment by almost anyone`s standards. After an impressive debut season that saw them garner 42 points and finish sixth in the Western Conference, Portland slumped to an eighth-place finish, gaining only 34 points.
The woes go deeper, though. Portland scored only 34 goals in 34 games, which was second worst in the league and won only one road game. The team did salvage some face by winning the Cascadia Cup challenge that includes Vancouver and Seattle, but it was also the only one of those teams not to make the MLS playoffs.
A big part of Portland`s problem, at least this past season, was with ownership and coaching. Team owner, Merritt Paulson was involved in several controversies, including being fined for criticizing league officiating. Paulson also put the team under a tremendous amount of pressure by announcing before the season that he expected it to make the playoffs.
That pressure may have led to the firing of original coach, John Spencer after only three games; granted, all three games were losses. That led to general manager, Gavin Wilkinson being named interim coach for the rest of the season.
Turning things around will start with coaching and to that end, the Timbers are bringing in promising young coach, Caleb Porter. While Porter has no professional coaching experience, he did lead Akron to the 2010 NCAA championship and also has been coaching the U.S. Under-23 Men`s National team.
One of Porter`s first tasks will likely be trying to find some consistent offense. Scotland`s Kris Boyd, one of Portland`s two designated players, scored only seven goals in 26 games, well below his average of better than one goal every two games when he played in Scotland. It`s not clear whether Boyd will even be back next year. The Timbers did trade with the Philadelphia Union for Congolese striker, Danny Mwanga, but his record is even less impressive, having scored only 12 times in 61 career MLS games.
One thing that would also help in 2013 is for Portland to win games it should. The Timbers were a respectable 6-8-6 against MLS playoff teams in 2012, but they were only 2-8-4 against non-playoff teams. Two wins against teams in the lower half of the standings is not a good sign.
Portland also needs to make some of its own luck in the next campaign. One of the reasons for owner Paulson`s criticisms of the MLS officiating was that the Timbers were the only team in the league and only the fifth in MLS history to not have a penalty kick given in their favor. One could argue that was due to biased officiating, but more than likely it speaks to an inability to put themselves in a position to get those calls.
To keep track of how the Timbers do in 2013 and to see scores from the rest of the MLS, as well as European and international games, go to SofaScore livescore.