The Portland Timbers offseason included a series of moves on the pitch and at the stadium, Providence Park. Those changes are expected to continue well into the 2019 campaign.
In addition to signing defenders Claude Dielna and Jorge Moreira, along with goalkeeper Aljaž Ivačič, the reigning MLS Western Conference champions will play their first 12 matches on the road due to the 4,000-seat stadium expansion project underway, which will cost nearly $50 million and raising Providence Park’s total capacity to 25,000 seats.
The Timbers main core of players still remains intact. Argentinian midfielders Sebastián Blanco and Diego Valeri return, and 22-year-old Jeremy Ebobisse will begin 2019 as the first-choice striker after Fanendo Adi’s midseason departure.
The club also started the 2018 season on the road, losing three of its first five matches before returning home for its first win. A tough stretch. Yet five of the first 12 opponents in 2019 made the playoffs last season.
Fans will expect a better start from the Timbers than last year. Nevertheless, a target will be on them in the Western Conference.
Timbers begin season on road against Colorado Rapids
When: Saturday, March 2, 6 p.m. ET
Where: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Broadcast: ROOT Sports NW
Live Stream: MLS LIVE on ESPN+ (USA), MLS LIVE on DAZN (Canada)
The buzz: Portland won its last three regular-season meetings with the Rapids. The Timbers’ star attacking midfielder, Diego Valeri, scored in the last two.
March 17 vs. FC Cincinnati – Defender Alvas Powell will face former teammates for the first time after being traded to FC Cincinnati.
June 1 vs. Los Angeles FC – Timbers fans will see their team in MLS action for the first time since the 2018 Western Conference Finals against Sporting Kansas City Nov. 25.
Check out the full schedule here.
Quotes & Notes
Head coach Gio Savarese on the Timbers mentality for the 2019 season:
“We cannot think about MLS Cup. We have to think about Colorado. That’s the first match we’ll play. We cannot look ahead because this will be a tough game and we have to put the work in to earn those points that we need. It’s not going to be easy, but we want to focus on having a good start.”
On expectations for midfielders Sebastián Blanco and Diego Valeri:
“It’s same thing I want from ‘Jbo’ [Ebobisse], Eryk [Williamson], [David] Guzmán — I have the same expectations, that we all work together, work hard and that we believe in what we’re doing. Every game, we have to make sure we do our best. That’s what I expect from every player.”
The Timbers will be without Ivačič, who is recovering from surgery to repair a tibial stress fracture in his left leg and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh is also expected to miss the season opener due to a hamstring injury.
Biggest offseason moves
Forward Samuel Armenteros’ loan expired and he will not return for the 2019 season.
Portland signed midfielders Marvin Loría and Renzo Zambrano from their USL affiliate, T2.
Forwards – Jeremy Ebobisse, 22; Lucas Melano, 25; Foster Langsdorf, 23
Midfielders – Dairon Asprilla, 26; Sebastián Blanco, 30; Diego Chara, 32; Tomás Conechny, 20; Andrés Flores, 28; David Guzmán, 29; Marvin Loría, 21; Cristhian Paredes, 20; Andy Polo, 24; Diego Valeri, 32; Eryk Williamson, 22; Renzo Zambrano, 24
Defenders – Julio Cascante, 25; Claude Dielna, 31; Marco Farfan, 20; Modou Jadama, 24; Larrys Mabiala, 31; Jorge Moreira, 29; Bill Tuiloma, 23, Zarek Valentin, 27; Jorge Villafaña, 29;
Goalkeepers – Jeff Attinella, 30; Steve Clark, 32; Aljaž Ivačič, 25; Kendall McIntosh, 25
Check out the full roster here.