2017 Portland Timbers Review
In 2017, the Timbers parlayed a stellar home record and just enough on the road into the #1 seed in the western conference. However, their post-season journey was cut short when they were knocked out in the 2nd round by the Houston Dynamo. The Timbers’ 2017 campaign was headlined by the brilliance of MLS MVP Diego Valeri and the frailty of the roster as a whole with key players missing large chunks of time up and down the pitch. Flying under the radar was the timbers defensive turnaround as the season went on making Timbers offensive and defensive players viable fantasy options.
Caleb Porter OUT → Giovanni Savarese IN: After another up and down campaign, Caleb Porter and the Timbers parted ways. Taking over the helm is former NY Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese who finally gets his shot as a MLS head coach. Savarese will bring a defensive focus to his back eight and attack primarily with his front four.
Darlington Nagbe OUT: Nagbe was sold to Atlanta for buckets of everyone’s favorite acronyms GAM and TAM. How Portland replaces Nagbe will go a long way into determining their shape and style of play in 2018.
Andy Polo (RM) IN: Polo will get the first shot at replacing Nagbe on the right wing. The 23 year old Polo joins on loan with an option to buy from Liga MX side Monarcas Morelia. He starts regularly for the Peruvian national team. Polo attacks at pace with a relentless motor but can sometime struggle for confidence.
Julio Cascante (CB) IN: Adding much needed defensive depth, Cascante joins Portland from Saprissa. In addition to be defensively solid, Cascante has a nose for goal with 6 goals in 20 appearances last season for Saprissa. If Portland improves its defensive solidity, Cascante could be a useful CB for clean sheets and goals in 2018.
Depth: With Portland’s injury history getting deeper this off season was priority. Portland has also brought in US U20 standout midfielder Eryk Williamson from DC as well as attacking MF Andres Flores who spent time with Savarese with the Cosmos and CB Modou Jadama who has spent time both in USl and Chile.
Rumors: The Timbers still have buckets of TAM from the Nagbe transfer as well as the influx of Garber bucks this season. The timbers had been linked to Justin Meram but that appears to be dead for now. The most recent report has the Timbers linked to Box-to-Box midfielder Cristhian Paredes on loan from Club America.
Expected/Predicted Starting XI Picture
The big question going into 2018 is how will the Timbers play under new head coach Giovanni Savarese. With the Cosmos, Savarese favored the 4-2-3-1 but also showed formational flexibility switching between the 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, and 4-1-4-1 depending on the situation. Based on his past history and the Timbers personnel it’s likely he sticks with these formations. Savarese’s teams are defined by their defensive discipline and free-flowing attack, offering space and freedom for his front four to attack with quick passing and keeping the ball on the ground.
Portland’s defense should likely improve under Savarese as result of his tactics and the improved depth across the back line. The defense will also be highlighted by position battles at CB and GK. The key battle will be at CB where Liam Ridgewell, Cascante, and Maibala are all starting-caliber players.Likely injury will determine who’s the best value in 2018. My money is on Cascante being the player to own on Portland’s backline.
Valeri, Valeri, Valeri. New question.
But seriously, he was the highest scoring player in MLS Fantasy last season.21 goals, 11 assists and a bonus point monster.
When healthy Fanendo Adi is a beast, and there’s no immediate competition behind him. The key for Portland will be how Blanco and Andy Polo can contribute from the wing. Blanco had a respectable 8 goals and 8 assists, but never quite changed the game like a DP needs to in MLS. Expect Polo to play more direct than Nagbe, giving Valeri and Blanco running mates to play off Adi as the front four interchange and attack.
Behind the veteran aging core of Portland is young quality depth in the likes of Jeremy Ebobisse, Eryk Williamson and Marco Farfan ready to step into the starting lineup when/if the injury bug hits. If there’s a major injury in Portland’s starting 11, the players could provide good fantasy value.
Portland should continue to provide fantasy value this season, especially at home. Outside of the Valeri though, their production isn’t likely to be predictable early in the season. Integrating a new system and new players will likely mean the offense lags a little early in the season, particularly since they start the season with five straight road games and possible a bye week.
I’d expect Portland to be a solid competitor for a playoff spot in the west, but likely in the 4-6 seed range. Their early season struggles are likely to continue this year with the coaching change, but the end of the season should seem the coalesce into a dangerous unit just in time for the playoffs.
Closing Fantasy Thoughts/Conclusion
- Valeri, Valeri, Valeri
- Keep on eye the offense as the season progresses.
- Expect defensive improvement.