PORTLAND, OR - MAY 21: Members of the Portland Timbers including, Eric Brunner #5 and Mamadou Danso #98 of the Portland Timbers who hold up log slabs, cheer with the fans after the game between the Columbus Crew and the Portland Timbers at PGE Park on May 21, 2011 in Portland, Oregon. The Timbers won the game 1-0. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
After narrowly missing the playoffs their first year, the Timbers could be poised for a significant leap forward.
2011 record (finish): 11-14-9, 42 points (6th in the West)
Key additions: Kris Boyd, Franck Songo'o, Brent Richards, Hanyer Mosquera, Joe Bendik, Charles Renken, Andrew Jean-Baptiste
The biggest addition being Kris Boyd, of course, who is hailed as the Scottish Premier League's top goalscorer ever. His presence was immediately felt in the Timbers' final pre-season game against AIK when he scored in the 7th minute.
Franck Songo'o is another player fans are excited about as he's had EPL experience with Portsmouth, trained as a youth in the FC Barcelona system and was very impressive in the pre-season as a trialist.
Key losses: Kenny Cooper.
Not a huge loss for the Timbers, in my opinion, as he never really got into the system here. Still, of all the losses over the offseason, this was the most notable. The others were mostly reserves.
Projected starting XI: GK: Troy Perkins; DEF: Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Hanyer Mosquera, Rodney Wallace; MID: Franck Songo'o, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury ( c ), Kalif Alhassan; FWD: Jorge Perlaza, Kris Boyd
Bold prediction: The Portland Timbers will have a trophy this year. I know that might seem a bit bold, but let me break it down a bit for you. To the Timbers and their fans there are four trophies we really care about in 2012: MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield, US Open Cup and the Cascadia Cup. That last one is just about as important as all the others.
So with that said, I believe the Timbers will bring one of them home. The Cascadia Cup seems the most likely, given that the Timbers are hosting both the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps twice this year, but I also believe that any of the other cups are well within the Timbers' reach. It might not look like it from an outsider's perspective, but the amount of depth the Timbers have added is incredible. I expect that to pay off very well for the 2012 squad.
Biggest fear: Another hum drum summer filled with disappointing results. All in all, the 2011 season was pretty good for the Timbers. While they lost their first couple of games they went on quite the unbeaten streak at home which got the season off to a great start. And then the summer came...
It was during those months that the Timbers really lost their position and the struggles really hit them hard. Not that anybody expected an expansion MLS side to make it to the play offs, but had they held their form for only a couple more games the 2011 season could have been much different.
I also worry that if the Timbers fail to make the playoffs this year, we'll be next in line for a new head coach which I believe would be the wrong move and would put the Timbers in the same position Toronto FC was in for the last half decade. I'm a firm believer in coach stability and I think having one coach for long periods of time is a huge benefit to the team.