The Portland Timbers Season kicks off with an away game against USL-1 regional rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps, this Saturday at 7pm up in that there Canader. I can't help but be excited. So much has changed for the Timbers in the last two years, and may be the deepest, strongest, most talented squad we've ever fielded, though far from perfect. You don't get perfect at this pay grade.

As with the continuing political process related to the PGE Park and new Baseball stadium plans, my 401k, and the future of Chuck, I'm staying in the third gear of fandom, Cautious Optimism.

First of all, I will not be commenting on the stadium deals and the constant, boring political wrangling associated with them. I will simply let the business of running a city and putting good ideas to work go on without any more editorials from me. For the record, I think that Memorial Coliseum is a beautiful building, and I'm glad all these conversations about the baseball stadium continue. I'm sure it'll all work out fine, and I don't need to weigh in.

I will henceforth concentrate on the 2009 Portland Timbers, a squad full of young talent, international men of mystery and weathered veterans whom we hope can take the title.

Before my exegesis on the 2009 Timbers Squad, let's get the actual pertinent information out:

The first game of the season is up in Vancouver, as I mentioned, but if you're not making the trip to Vancouver (don't forget yer passports, folks), I recommend you join the Timbers Army at Beulahland, for they will be showing the USL Live broadcast and they have a liquor license. I suggest the Bloody Maria to start off, and maybe the nachos.

If you can't make the match in Canada or at Beulahland, the same video feed Beulahland will use is available free to all at USL Live. John Strong and Andy Mac will be doing audio play by play live on 95.5 the Game and that will also be streamed on Portland, so really, you have no excuses.

The Home opener is at PGE Park, Thursday, April 30th, at 7pm against the bafflingly named Carolina Railhawks. Beer will be cheap and songs will be sung. If you can't make those, all of the online and radio tools mentioned above will be available.

For information about how to enjoy your first Timbers game, or if you need to be reminded how to be awesome, consult Dave's list of lists of rules and resources. I'll give you the absolute basics:

1. Wear Green, or Timbers Paraphernalia.
2. Yell and sing your head off.
3. Hate Shittle.

The Timbers Army are working their hardest to fill the stands and are always welcoming newcomers with open arms, so go meet some awesome people. They're all nice, except for Lucas. Their goal is to average 10,000 fans per game this year & build on that for next year so when MLS comes to town the 15,000 people per game that seemed like such a wild prediction will be easy as pie.

The Timbers also announced two international friendlies in the last month, including a match against Club America Reserva on May 31st (the most widely supported/reviled club in Mexico), and Bayern München II, the reserve team for the perennial Bundesliga I powerhouse, on July 2nd.

So with all that out of the way, let's talk PTFC version 2k9! I'm as excited as ever for the season and I can't wait!

Steve Cronin, Brian Visser
Cameron Knowles, Scot Thompson, Cameron Dunn, Dieumerci Vua
, David Hayes, Takuro Nishimura, Stephen Keel. Mamadou Danso
Johan Claesson, Tony McManus, Brian Farber, Keith Savage, Josh Cameron, Tommy Poltl, Shaun Higgins, Alex Nimo, Ryan Pore.
Takayuki Suzuki, Antou Jallow, Jason McLaughlin, Mandjou Keita, George Josten.

The only changes from my last installment is the addition of Mamadou Danso, a large tree of a defender who didn't manage to stick on DC United's roster during this year's camp, and Dieumerci Vua was released from his contract. That was quite a short stay, Mr, Vua.

What do I see? I see a lot of new players, and after a last place finish last season, that can't be bad.

The back line is now deep enough to absorb any injuries that may occur, and I don't see a big drop off from the starters to the backups. Knowles and Thompson have been excellent defenders in the Green and White for a while, and Dunn really impressed me in his 1/2 season last year as well (he knocked Justin Thompson out of the starting XI, leading to JT shipping out this offseason). The new blood, Keel, Danso, and Nishimura were impressive in preseason, and Hayes is an old hand at keeping USL quality strikers at bay.

The only surviving players in the middle are Higgins and Poltl. I'm still surprised Higgins is around, but Poltl is a tough little leprechaun. The new guy from Sweden will not be shaken much by the quality of the USL, but I imagine he'll get a tad bruised up, but adjust quickly. The young talent in Cameron (rookie from Oregon State) and Nimo (Benson High kid), Savage and Pore will provide tons of speed, but I worry about their first touches and crossing.

I'm a little concerned about the striker situation. I know preseason doesn't matter too much, but this is a crew that managed only a few goals: Timbers strikers tallied just 2 of the 6 goals in a 7 game preseason. Accounts point to poor finishing, including more than a few wide-open-net-you-can't-miss moments. The passing from the back is better than last year, but our strike force seems ill equipped to, y'know, score. I look forward to seeing these young players develop around Suzuki, Jallow and Keita and I hope this year is goal-tastical. If not, there's cause to worry, because I know Coach Wilkinson counts 0-0 ties as thrilling victories, but the rest of the world doesn't.

My biggest concern about this team? The coach who thinks 0-0 ties are acceptable. Don't get me wrong, I like seeing the Timbers back line punk the other side's offense like Gooch on Borgetti, but we still need to score. I'm worried that a stagnant offense won't be addressed fast enough, or at all.

Keep in mind that I say all these things with the hope that I will look like an absolute fool in a week and continue to appear foolish through July. I will most certainly wear a fucking dunce cap to the final if the Timbers play for the championship.

So come on Gav', make me look like a schmuck. It's not hard.