Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
The story of the 2018 Western Conference champion Portland Timbers was, in the end, that of three great players, a smart coach, and a supporting cast that just about did enough.

With the Timbers' offseason expected to ramp up after the new year, here are the player grades for 2018's team — one that, for its heart, moxie, and resilience, will be remembered in Portland for a long time to come.


Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

Attinella's return from injury coincided almost exactly with the start of the Timbers' 15-game unbeaten run, and, while correlation certainly doesn't equal causation, it's no stretch to say that the Florida native played a key role in steadying a defense that had struggled badly with Jake Gleeson in goal.

Attinella is as cool a head and as safe a pair of hands as the Timbers have ever had in net. He's not the shot-stopper that a Donovan Ricketts was, but he's polished and smart in every phase of the game — including in his distribution, which was accurate and urgent as the Timbers countered throughout the year.

His being linked to Pachuca in recent days serves as a confirmation of his terrific work this season, and arrival over the last two years as one of the league's better goalkeepers. The Timbers are in good hands.


Acquired by the Timbers after Gleeson's injury in the summer, it was easy to see both why Clark became a fan favorite during his time in Columbus and why he's failed to hold down a starting job anywhere in the league since 2015.

First, the good: his acrobatic performance against Real Salt Lake at home in October was the best that any Timbers goalkeeper had this season, and it was impossible not to appreciate his energy and enthusiasm for playing in Portland.

But he struggled to control his penalty area at various points during his six starts and wasn't all that clean with the ball, making it an easy decision for Savarese to go back to Attinella for the postseason. Clark is a very adequate backup, though, and it'd no surprise to see the Timbers bring him back.


This was the year that it all fell apart for the Kiwi in Portland. Gleeson came into the season as the starting goalkeeper with Attinella injured, but was extremely shaky through the first six games, lost the job, got hurt, and didn't see the field from April onwards.

Gleeson's shot-stopping ability remains exceptional, and his build and athleticism are enviable. But he's never fixed the holes in his game, from his play in the air to his overall decision-making, and at 28, with Attinella in his prime and Kendall McIntosh excelling at the USL level, the window for him to do so in Portland has closed.

Gleeson is an original MLS Timber, and was a part of some awfully special moments at this club. Here's hoping he lands on his feet.


Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

There are so few elite fullbacks in MLS, it's no surprise that the Timbers never truly replaced Jorge Villafaña when he left for Mexico after the 2015 season, and no surprise that they jumped at the chance to re-acquire him this summer.

Villafaña returned to Portland a full U.S. international and Liga MX champion, and he was respected approprietely as teams mainly targeted the right side of the Timbers' defense down the stretch and during the playoffs.

Villafaña's direct impact wasn't during his three months back what it was in 2015, but he still picked up a couple of assists going forward and was tremendously difficult to beat defensively. Next year, with an offseason and full preseason under his belt, he should be even better.


In October, Liam Ridgewell called 2018 "one of the worst seasons I've had in my playing career."

It might have been understatement. Not only did Ridgewell again get hurt and miss three-and-a-half months in the middle of the year, but he was stripped of the captaincy and exiled from the team for a month before that for a performance in New York lax enough to be considered unprofessional.

Of course, just when it seemed like his Timbers career was set to end in disgrace, Ridgewell got healthy, locked in, and played every second of the run to MLS Cup.

He was good, too: crafty, decisive, and stuck in when the Timbers most needed him. Is that enough? Considering how the first three quarters of the season went? Whatever the answer, it's been par for the course with Ridgewell since 2015. He is, to say the least, in an interesting position heading into next year.


Mabiala isn't without his flaws, but he was a rock at center back for the Timbers this year — every bit as reliable as Ridgewell wasn't. In addition to a bevy of solid, strong defensive performances, he also chipped in with five goals — including two at Chad Marshall's expense, in the game at Seattle in June.

If there are concerns going forward with the Frenchman, they mainly have to do with his ability to keep up with the league's quicker forwards and, relatedly, play effectively in a system that doesn't incorporate a defensive low block.

Mabiala's longterm future in Portland may depend on how Savarese develops the team tactically; short-term, he's had a superb year-and-a-half and should be penciled in as a starter again next year.


It was a career year for the Lancaster native, who led the team in appearances, finally won the right back job outright, clinched his first piece of silverware, and locked up a well deserved contract extension that will keep him in Portland for the foreseeable future.

Valentin wasn't necessarily better this year than he was last year, but he emerged very early to Gio Savarese, during a difficult period, as a player worth leaning on — for his intelligence, his selflessness, and his unusual skill on the ball.

Even if he's never going to be a shutdown defender, he's going to do things every time he steps on the field to help the Timbers win. Whether he enters next season as the starter at right back remains to be seen, but his versatility and reliability mean that he'll see the field plenty in 2019 either way.


All in all, even though he lost his starting job by the end of it, Powell didn't have an especially bad year. He was one of the Timbers' most important players when they played in a 5-3-2 during the summer, tied his career highs in goals and assists, and made more starts than he did in 2016 or 2017.

But, when Villafaña returned in August and pushed Valentin back to the right side of the field, his deficiencies finally caught up to him. While he can change and every so often did change games in a way that Valentin can't, his wavering concentration and inability to play in tight spaces made him a risk every time he stepped on the field.

Wherever he goes, it'll be tough to see him play for another club. Powell has been in Portland since he was 18, and has in many ways, as Wilkinson said at his year-end press conference, grown up with the Timbers. Plenty at the club feel loyal to him, and for good reason.


After failing to get on the field during his first MLS season last year, Tuiloma was in and around the team from the get-go in 2018. He started games at center back and right back, and acquitted himself well in his two playoff starts in Mabiala's stead.

He should continue to improve as he gets more reps at center back, which is clearly where the Timbers see him long-term, and more playing time next year.


After arriving as the big defensive acquisition of the offseason, Cascante endured a difficult debut year in MLS.

The Timbers won just six of his 18 starts and none of his last eight. There were moments in which Cascante was unlucky — the own goal that decided the Seattle game in August, for instance — but more moments when his lack of alertness, both in possession and defensively, proved extremely costly.

As a result, by the end of the year, Cascante been passed on the depth chart by Tuiloma. Cascante is somewhat reminiscent of Roy Miller at his best — good first step, confident in the open field — but he needs to tighten up his game considerably in 2019.


There was no big step forward this year for the Portland native, who got the bulk of his minutes in the spring and was used sparingly from April onwards.

During those minutes, Farfan didn't look quite ready. He struggled with the pace and physicality of the game, but he also struggled on the tactical side at times — routinely getting caught out of position in the routs at the hands of the Red Bulls in March and Sporting Kansas City in August.

Villafaña's return, in many ways, takes the pressure off of the young left back. He won't be expected to challenge for the starting job at any point in the foreseeable future. But he does need to continue to acclimate his body and game to this level and take a step forward next year.


Roy Miller came close, starting a handful of games for T2 at the end of the summer, but he never quite made it back from his Achilles injury. Hopefully, with the benefit of a few more months of recovery, he can get back on the field in 2019.


Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

After a strong debut season in MLS last year, injuries, international duty, and poor form meant that Guzman made only two starts for the Timbers between March and July and finished the season with just 11 starts in total.

When he did get into the team, Guzman came up with some big moments — three goals, including a sweet steal-and-score to seal a victory against Michael Bradley and Toronto in August — but he was not nearly the sort of no-frills, lockdown defensive presence it seemed he might be when he first arrived.

Guzman will be back next year, and what the Timbers need from him the kind of consistency befitting a World Cup player — both game-to-game, and within games.


Diego Chara should have gotten MVP votes this year. He was that good.

As always, the numbers tell part of the story. The Timbers went 0-5-3 with a -10 goal differential in games that Chara didn't start; in games he did start, they went 15-5-6 with a +16 goal differential and made a run to MLS Cup.

But the numbers don't tell the full story. With Savarese taking care to manage his minutes, Chara this year was as good as he's ever been — a vacuum cleaner in midfield, and every so often a game-changer flying forward from it.

Gavin Wilkinson said MLS Cup that the Timbers think he's got two to three years left at his best, and, if that's true, the Timbers' championship window has two to three years left before it closes.

#11 — ANDY POLO: B-

For a player brought in at considerable expense to be the primary replacement for Darlington Nagbe, Polo had an extremely underwhelming campaign: just one goal and two assists in nearly 2,000 minutes between the regular season and playoffs.

Polo showed flashes at times, and he turned heads with his performance for Peru against the U.S. during the October international break, but he didn't have the creativity or power required to regularly impact games for the Timbers.

Polo is certainly a competent player, and oftentimes it takes international imports a season to acclimate to the league, but the Timbers need more production from his spot. It will be interesting to see whether they sign another starting-caliber wide player in the next month.


Sebastian Blanco in 2018 was flat-out tremendous. He was probably the second best true winger in the league behind Montreal's Ignacio Piatti, hitting double digits in both goals and assists, and was easily the best true winger in the season.

He also, tellingly, picked up nine yellow cards over the course of the campaign — a testament to his engine, his intensity, and the audaciousness that led him to score what is very probably the greatest goal in club history in Kansas City and explain it by saying "I just kick."

This was Blanco's team in many ways. He saved them in the Seattle series, he saved them in the Kansas City series, and his tears on the field in Atlanta after the final whistle of MLS Cup spoke volumes about his investment.


After exploding for 21 goals as a quasi-second forward in 2017, the Maestro returned to more of a playmaking role in 2018 — scoring ten times, but also tallying more assists than he had in any of the previous three years.

It was in the playoffs, though, that Valeri was a class apart: tallying six combined goals and assists in six games, and bringing his career postseason totals to 13 combined goals and assists in 17 games. It's an extraordinary record, and one of the many reasons why he's an all-time great.

The other note is that this was, at long last, the year that Valeri took over the club's captaincy on a permanent basis. His inexhaustible will to win, along with the grace and purpose with which he carries himself off the field, have made him the most natural of fits for the role.


At 34 years old, Lawrence Olum just kept plugging away this year: 18 more starts, 22 more appearances, and a role as a steady, positive veteran presence both on and off the field in a club that he grew up at.

In fact, despite all of his limits, especially in possession as he moved back into central midfield this year, Olum made himself such a part of the fabric of the team that it will be strange not to have him in the fold next season.

Whether his playing career continues or ends, it'll be interesting to see what his next move is. He'll have plenty of people within the Timbers' organization wishing him well.


A favorite of Savarese's from their time with the New York Cosmos, the El Salvadorian was given plenty of opportunities to make an impression in his first MLS season and largely failed to do so.

There are two main reasons why. Flores is not big or fast or strong enough to impact games physically, and not nearly good enough on the ball in key areas to impact them technically. He can hold his own at this level — much as he did when called upon for the second leg of the Seattle series — but nothing more.

If he returns for 2019, it'll be because Savarese trusts him. But he shouldn't see as many minutes as he saw this year.


The young Paraguayan midfielder made an exceptionally bright start to life in Portland, challenging for central midfield minutes at the start of the season and punctuating a run of 12 straight starts from late March through June with a memorable first goal against LAFC.

In the second half, though, Paredes hit a wall. He started just five games from July on — games in which the Timbers went a miserly 0-3-2 — and didn't play a full 90 minutes in any of them.

But young players running out of steam in their first MLS seasons isn't at all abnormal. Paredes should continue to improve and play a bigger role next year.


Make no mistake: this was a very, very difficult year from Dairon Asprilla. He was asked to change positions, dropped to T2 for much of the first half of the season, and only started in consecutive MLS games once. For a player who appeared 27 times in 2017, it was a huge step backwards.

But Asprilla didn't wilt. He persevered, kept working, earned his way back into the rotation over the summer, and rewarded everyone who believed in him — from the owner on down — when he powered the Timbers to victory in Seattle in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal.

Obviously, Asprilla is limited. He plays slowly, he's not especially comfortable on the ball, and he's a below average finisher. But he's got goals in three separate postseasons and two separate Seattle games, and he's proven his commitment to the club beyond a shadow of a doubt.


Jack Barmby didn't make a single appearance for the first team all year, while Tomas Conechny failed to spark during his few appearances. Barmby will finally be gone, while Conechny's status for next year is up in the air.


Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

For a long time, it looked as if this would be something of a lost year for Jeremy Ebobisse. The second year forward made just one substitute appearance in the first 26 games of the MLS, playing frequently for T2 but being overshadowed somewhat by the goalscoring prowess of Stanford product Foster Langsdorf.

But then, in early September, with Fanendo Adi gone and Samuel Armenteros sluggish, Savarese decided to give Ebobisse a surprise start. He didn't disappoint — scoring in that game against Colorado, and adding a goal and two more assists in four more regular season starts before scoring against Seattle in the playoffs.

Ebobisse isn't yet the goal threat that he'll hopefully become, but it's hard not to love his movement and passing ability, especially in the open field. At just 21 years of age, Ebobisse's future is bright — and he's got a January camp call-up to prove it.


Samuel Armenteros is a talented, intelligent soccer player, and throughout the late spring and early summer, when he scored seven goals in nine games and played Fanendo Adi out of town, he was one of the best forwards in the league.

But Armenteros in the second half of the season was just as disappointing as his first half was exhilarating. After Adi was traded, Armenteros disappeared. He scored just once more in 11 appearances, played and moved listlessly, lost the starting job to Jeremy Ebobisse, and was dropped from the squad for the playoffs.

On Twitter several days after MLS Cup, Armenteros claimed that his disappearance at the end of the season was due only to a series of injuries suffered at the end of a long season. Whether that's true or not, this kind of observation is damning. He won't be back next year.


Expectations were so low for Lucas Melano upon his return to the Timbers in August that he gets a passing grade here despite making just one start and scoring just one goal in 11 appearances between the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

In some ways, Melano was improved from his first stint in the league. He generally played simpler and was cleaner on the ball, found himself a spot in the rotation as Ebobisse's backup, and converted his penalty in the shootout against Seattle with ease.

That was all heartening. But Melano is being scored on a curve for a reason. He still looks lost on the field nine minutes out of every ten, and his technical deficiencies were again captured in a spectacular miss on an open net in the final minutes of the game in New England in September. He's not an MLS quality player.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers