May 8, 2013, 7:31 PM EDT
He never wants to talk about it, but so much of Caleb Porter’s first season in Portland has been about putting the Timbers’ short MLS history behind them, whether that be from moving on from two seasons outside of the playoffs or turning around a terrible road record that’d come to define the club. Sitting fourth in the West and having won at Kansas City a week ago, Portland’s already started to match owner Merritt Paulson’s aspirations. Reflections on the past will soon be little more than a literary device for unimaginative authors.
There are, however, small remnants of the past which keep popping up. For example, with the Timbers in Dallas tonight, Portland fans are reminded of two of the worst losses in team history. Two years ago, during the team’s inaugural season, Portland lost 4-0 in their first trip to what was then Pizza Hut Park, and while the Timbers earned a 1-1 draw when they returned next March, their last visit to Dallas ended with an embarrassing 5-0 defeat. In three trips to visit Schellas Hyndman’s team, Portland’s been outscored 10-1.
But with both teams making so many improvements since last season, it’s hard to see those lopsided results as precedence. FC Dallas, who missed last year’s playoffs, have the best record in the league, their 6-1-2 mark leaving them six points ahead of the Western Conference’s three-way tie for second place. Within that cluster are the Portland Timbers, who, along with Dallas, are one of team teams yet to be dealt a second loss.
For Dallas, a couple of key additions and some improved health have fueled their hot start. Kenny Cooper was brought back to Texas this offseason, and while it took a while for Hyndman to feel out his best spot, the big striker has adapted to a wide role in Dallas’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Those two holders – Andrew Jacobson and Michel – have been crucial to bolstering a midfield that spent the preseason looking for an identity. Raul Fernandez has also replaced the departed Kevin Hartman at the back, but with playmaker David Ferreira fit and with the team from the get-go, health has been as vital as upgrades for Hyndman.
(This is also where we should mention Jackson, Dallas’s best player through the season’s first two months. But, since I painted myself into a corner with the change and health angles, consider Jackson done wrong.)
For Portland, it’s been all about the upgrades. Ryan Johnson is giving them production they never got from Cooper or Kris Boyd. Will Johnson’s thriving in his new home. Donovan Ricketts is flashing the form most thought he’d lost in Los Angeles, while Diego Valeri is one of the league’s most exciting additions. They’re bringing the best out of holdovers Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, and Rodney Wallace, though the team’s biggest upgrade – luring Porter from Akron – deserves credit for their improvements.
In a meeting between two teams much improved over last season, we can afford to discard the past and concentrate and a surprisingly intriguing present. Rather than wonder whether a 10-1 margin can transcend two club’s changes, better to ask if Pederson and Michel can contain the new-look Timbers.
Apr 21, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT
Atletico heads to the Bernabeu for a Madrid derby against Real, as Juventus travels to France hoping to reach the semifinals at Monaco’s expense.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
Despite getting knocked out of the Champions League, Laurent Blanc believes his Paris Saint-Germain side is heading in the right direction.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT
If you’d like your supporters group to be featured on future episodes of ‘I Was There’ simply send pictures/video to @NBCSportsSoccer or on NBC Sports Soccer on Facebook using the #IWasThere hashtag.
Apr 21, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
The first spots in the semifinals have been determined as two of Europe’s top clubs made light work of their opposition today.
Apr 21, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT
Enrique has won 42 of his first 50 games in charge at Barcelona, and has his side gunning for a treble.
Apr 21, 2015, 6:37 PM EDT
Toure: “No amount of wages will make me stay at a club if I feel that I no longer belong there or if no challenge exists for me.”
Apr 21, 2015, 5:48 PM EDT
Time to take a trip down memory lane and look at some stunning UCL comebacks.
Apr 21, 2015, 5:08 PM EDT
This. Is. Awesome.
Apr 21, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
Guardiola’s boys batter Porto to reach the final four of the Champions League.
Barcelona 2-0 (5-1, agg.) Paris Saint-Germain: Neymar brace eases Barca into Champions League semifinals
Apr 21, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT
Barcelona reaches the semifinals for the seventh time in eight seasons as the Catalans eliminated PSG from Champions League play.
Apr 21, 2015, 3:39 PM EDT
Bayern Munich has put in FIVE first half goals against FC Porto, while Barcelona tightened it’s grip on a semifinal berth.
Apr 21, 2015, 3:18 PM EDT
A thigh strain threatens to end his injury-plagued season.
Apr 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
Manchester United spent the most money in the Premier League, while Tottenham made the most.
FOLLOW LIVE – Champions League: Bayern Munich, PSG aim to overturn 3-1 deficits to Barcelona, FC Porto
Apr 21, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
Two UCL quarterfinals will take place on Tuesday. Follow them both live, right here.
Wolfsburg, already down 4-1, will be without De Bruyne and Schurrle for Europa League 2nd leg vs Napoli
Apr 21, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT
As they look to mount a dream comeback on the road, the Bundesliga club will be without two of its best attackers.
Apr 21, 2015, 11:41 AM EDT
Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini has dubbed him the “new Messi” in an attempt to boost his value.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT
With the most goals of any defender in the Premier League, Chris Smalling has emerged as a solid member of Louis van Gaal’s lineup at Old Trafford.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT
Manager Neil Redfearn is dealing with countless off the field issues, while the club’s legal team now has a new task with problems piling up.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:12 AM EDT
A player whose departure many thought was a foregone conclusion appears to be reconsidering.
Apr 21, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
NBCSports.com’s Managing Editor Randy Kim spoke with Der Kaiser, as the German legend visited NYC.
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