MLS today released the full schedule for its 2018 season. Here are five things to know about the Timbers' slate.
1. Starting on the Road
Phase one of the construction to expand Providence Park means that the Timbers will open the season with a five game road trip and won't open at home until Minnesota comes calling on April 14. This will mark the first time since the club's expansion season of 2011 that it will play its first game away from home.
Portland opens the season on the road against Sigi Schmid's LA Galaxy, travels to the New York Red Bulls, gets a bye week, and then goes to Dallas, to Chicago, and to Orlando in the space of three weeks. It will be a grueling test for a new manager, and will indicate quite clearly where the Timbers are at in the early going.
2. Schedule Balance
With the long road trip to start the season, the second half schedule was always likely to look favorable for the Timbers. As it happens, Portland will almost entirely wipe out their deficit of home games in one stretch: from July 21 to August 11, the Timbers will play four straight at Providence Park.
In many ways, that's a good thing. Those four games, against Montreal, Houston, Philadelphia, and Vancouver, are all winnable come at a fairly pivotal point in the MLS season for playoff positioning.
The downside is that the Timbers won't, like Atlanta last season or DC United this season, have a glut of home games down the stretch. Of their last nine to finish the season across September and October, Portland has just four at home.
3. Starting Off Hot
10 of the Timbers' first 17 games will be nationally televised. In the first half of the season, they'll play the Seattle Sounders twice, the LA Galaxy twice, LAFC twice, Atlanta United, NYCFC, Orlando, the Red Bulls, and Sporting KC.
Gio Savarese, welcome to the show.
4. Battles Against Seattle
With LAFC bringing MLS to 23 teams, and, more importantly for local purposes, the Western Conference to 12, the Timbers will play just one team three times this season: the Seattle Sounders.
After going winless against Seattle for the first time since 2014 last season, Portland will host the Sounders twice this year: once on May 13, and against on August 26. Sandwiched in the middle of those games will be the Timbers' lone trip of 2018 to CenturyLink Field, which comes on June 30.
As has been noted elsewhere, this year's schedule poses problems for the Cascadia Cup. While Portland and Seattle are set to square off three times, each club will only matchup against Vancouver twice.
5. Other Notes
- For the third consecutive year, the Timbers will end the season against the Whitecaps on Decision Day. Vancouver will host at BC Place, where the Timbers' season ended in 2016. Portland's last game at Providence Park will be against Real Salt Lake the week before.
- Portland's first ever trip to Atlanta United is slated for June 24 at 1:30 on FOX, directly following a World Cup broadcast. Had the USMNT qualified for the tournament, Darlington Nagbe likely would have been in Russia. As it happened, barring injury, he'll be available to face the club he made his first 226 professional appearances for.
- The Timbers, along with the rest of the league, will get two weeks off for the group stage of the World Cup in mid-June.
- Due to the construction, the Timbers will not, again for the first time since 2011, host a preseason tournament. Preseason opens in late January, after which the Timbers will make their annual trip to Tucson.
- The Timbers will play just two weeknight home games this year, a record low. Nine Saturday night home games is a huge jump from the four that the club had in 2017. Though there won't be any new seats until next year, it's going to be a particularly loud year at Providence Park.