The Portland Timbers will be under new leadership in 2018, but the Western Conference leaders still have Major League Soccer’s reigning MVP.
Head coach: Giovanni Savarese
2017 regular season: 15-11-8, 53 points; No. 1 West.
Postseason: Lost to Houston in conference semifinal.
MLS MVP Diego Valeri (21 goals, 11 assists) led a balanced attack and helped the Portland Timbers finish with the best record in the West. Portland capitalized on its formidable home support and won the Cascadia Cup, but injuries were too much to overcome during the playoffs. Portland lost at least six significant players to injuries during the postseason and couldn’t hold up against Houston in the semifinals.
Coaching shock: Coach Caleb Porter left the Timbers shortly after the 2017 season ended following five years leading the club. He also steered the team to a MLS Cup in 2015. The move puzzled many observers surprised to see Porter walk away from a consistent title contender with strong fan support and resources.
Despite some high-profile departures, Portland returns a strong core. The Timbers unquestionably expect to be title contenders, but it’s unclear how much the turnover will hurt the club’s ability to make a run at a championship.
Season opener: March 4 at L.A. Galaxy, 10 p.m.
Portland named Giovanni Savarese head coach. Savarese led the New York Cosmos to three North American Soccer League titles during the past five seasons. The Timbers later traded veteran midfielder Darlington Nagbe and defender Gbenga Arokoyo to Atlanta United in exchange for $1.65 million in allocation money. Nagbe reportedly sought a significant salary increase, leading the Timbers to seek trade options. Portland is expected to make more moves before opening preseason training, but Valeri leads a strong crop of returning players who could succeed without many new faces on the roster.
Signings – D Julio Cascante
Trades – Traded M Darlington Nagbe and D Gbenga Arokoyo to Atlanta United for $650,000 in General Allocation Money in 2018, $100,000 GAM in 2019, $300,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and an international spot through Dec. 31, 2018. Timbers also will receive up to $600,000 in future TAM based on Nagbe’s performance with Atlanta. Acquired third-round selection in the 2018 SuperDraft from Real Salt Lake in exchange for the right of first refusal on D Taylor Peay.
Contract option declined – M Bill Tuiloma; M Amobi Okugo; F Darren Mattocks (later traded to D.C. United for a 2018 international roster spot).
Contract expired – M Ben Zemanski.
Other – F Lucas Melano (under contract, remains on loan with Club Estudiantes de La Plata in Argentina).