Portland Timbers
Though their ninth MLS season starts just six days from now in Commerce City against a remade Colorado Rapids side, the Portland Timbers won't take the field at Providence Park for almost three more months.

In the meantime, over the course of a twelve game road-trip, they're going to have to stay afloat. With their three best players all past the age of 30, this is a season that the Timbers must make the most of. Here are the expectations, hopes, and fears for each of them.


Portland Timbers

The Expectation: For the first time in his long career, Attinella will enter a season as a top-flight club's unquestioned starter. It's a job he's earned in spades over the last two years with his consistency and all-round polish in net.

The Hope: That he stays healthy, first of all, and that — in the prime of his career — he can set a high starts, saves and goals against average.

The Fear: Attinella is steady enough that there aren't any big concerns, but he has let in a couple of bad goals in each of the last two years and can be a touch short of commanding off of his line.


The Expectation: Clark made a strong enough impression last fall to warrant his return as Attinella's backup this year, a role that he should fill capably while bringing a positive, upbeat presence to the club.

The Hope: As we saw in the Real Salt Lake game last year, Clark is capable of some sensational goalkeeping. He's an acrobatic shot-stopper and

The Fear: He's also capable of some erratic goalkeeping. Clark shaky decision-making is the primary reason why he's no longer a starter in this league, and it's very likely that he'll cost the Timbers a couple of points if he gets an extended run in the team.


With Alijaž Ivačič's signing, the expectation was that the highly-rated Kendall McIntosh would spend this year out on loan. But with the Slovenian now out injured for the start of the season, it's possible that any loan of McIntosh could be either delayed or abandoned entirely. One of the two will get time with T2 and possibly in the U.S. Open Cup.


Portland Timbers

The Expectation: That Villafaña will be one of the first names on the team-sheet week in and week out, and one of the five best left backs in the league.

The Hope: That with the benefit of an offseason and full preseason, Villafaña will look more settled and gel better with his teammates than he did upon his arrival last summer.

The Fear: Villafaña wasn't last year the player he was when the Timbers last saw him. He was a step slower, he struggled at times with his positioning, and he wasn't as consistent going forward. At 29, there's a real chance that Villafaña just isn't the player he was in 2015 anymore.


The Expectation: Mabiala was something of an unsung hero for the 2018 Timbers. He was a constant at center back next to a rotating cast of partners, reliable on the ground and dominant in the air. The Timbers will be relying on him to carry a similarly big load this year.

The Hope: With Liam Ridgewell gone, Mabiala might have to shoulder more passing responsibility out of the back than he has in the past. If he can score five goals again, that wouldn't hurt either.

The Fear: Mabiala isn't fast, was pretty well exposed by quick forwards at times last year — most notably in MLS Cup. You get a feeling that, after a year-and-a-half, opposing teams have a solid understanding about how best to attack him.


The Expectation: Dielna was signed as DP in 2017 to fix New England's defensive woes, but, like a number of other veterans, fell out of favor under Brad Friedel last year. The Timbers have picked him up for relatively little money, and will expect him to bounce back and contribute solidly.

The Hope: Dielna is an experienced player, well-traveled in Europe, and the Timbers feel that he has a point to prove in MLS after a disappointing two years with the Revs. If he's at his best, he'll start alongside Mabiala and provide leadership for the backline.

The Fear: Dielna never did look like a dominant player with New England, and, if he's paired with Mabiala, the Timbers' defense might be awfully vulnerable to pace.


The Expectation: You don't bring a player with Moreira's pedigree — River Plate, Paraguay national team — in, with TAM, to sit. With all due respect to Zarek Valentin, he should be the starter at right back.

The Hope: That pedigree suggests that Moreira, at least before his knee injury in October of 2017, was a player of real quality. If he can approach the level he was when he was starting for River, he'll be a huge asset on both sides of the ball.

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The Fear: Transitions to MLS are rarely straightforward, and Moreira hasn't played everyday for a year-and-a-half. Playing in all kinds of conditions, frequently on turf, still building up after the injury, this might be a harder one that most.


The Expectation: Valentin's versatility, professionalism, and quality on the ball made the Timbers' decision to re-sign him an easy one. He enters this season as the primary backup at both fullback positions, a leader in the locker room, and someone who has the trust of the coaching staff.

The Hope: Valentin would certainly love to play 40-plus games again. He won a competition for the right back job last year, and while beating out Moreira for minutes is going to be harder than beating out Alvas Powell was, that's what the Lancaster native will be shooting for.

The Fear: If Moreira and Villafaña both play well and stay healthy, Valentin isn't going to get a lot of time — which would be a real letdown after he contributed so much last season. He's just not good enough defensively and doesn't have enough pop going forward.


The Expectation: Cascante got plenty of MLS minutes under his belt in his debut season last year, and he might be primed for a step forward in year two. He'll compete for the starting center back job opposite Mabiala.

The Hope: That he wins the job and keeps it by playing smarter, more consistent soccer than he did last year. He has the natural ability to do so, and his comfort on the ball might be especially important in a central defense without Ridgewell.

The Fear: The Timbers went 0-7-1 in Cascante's last eight starts last year while conceding 20 goals. That record isn't all his fault, of course, but it's illustrative of how the second half went for him last year. More of the same, and he won't play.


The Expectation: Tuiloma ended last year on a positive note, playing almost all of the Western Conference Championship after Mabiala went down injured. He should compete for minutes at center back, and provide cover if needed at right back and perhaps in central midfield.

The Hope: Like Cascante, that he wins the center back job and establishes himself as an everyday starter in MLS.

The Fear: Injury put Tuiloma behind the eight ball in preseason, and it seems like he's fourth on the depth chart behind both Cascante and Dielna at this point. He might get his chance anyway, but it hasn't been an auspicious start to 2019.


The Expectation: Farfan had a tough sophomore season with the big club — the Timbers were 0-4-2 in his six starts — but growing pains are to be expected. In this, his third year, he should get back on track and secure his spot as the backup left back.

The Hope: Farfan's rookie season was promising enough that it seemed as if he'd challenge for a starting spot last year. If he can slow the game down for himself and get a little bit stronger, much as Alvas Powell did between his second and third years in the league, he'll be in excellent shape.

The Fear: Farfan was badly off the pace almost every time he took the field last year, and was targeted mercilessly by opposing teams for it. That made getting him the minutes he needs to develop a costly endeavor, and took a toll on his confidence.


Modou Jadama acquitted himself nicely with T2 and in very limited minutes with the first-team last year, and his ability to play multiple positions across the backline means that he might just have a bigger role to play in 2019.


Portland Timbers

The Expectation: International committments, injury, and inconsistency meant that Guzman made just 11 starts in a rather underwhelming sophomore campaign for the Timbers last year. The expectation for this year is that he rebounds, plays 30 games, and looks much more like he did in 2017 in the process.

The Hope: Guzman has had moments of great quality in Portland. He knows how to make a nuisance of himself in the box, and his presence in midfield allows Diego Chara the freedom to get forward.

The Fear: It seems safe to say that, after last year, Guzman's place in this team is by no means unassailable. He's not an especially quick player, and he's too often erratic with the ball and undisciplined in his positioning. If he struggles early, the writing might be on the wall.


The Expectation: More of the same. Chara was at his very best last season, frequently on both sides of hte ball, and he's thus far showed no signs of slowing down.

The Hope: Giovani Savarese was good about managing Chara's minutes last year, but he was not always so good about putting him in spots where he could best impact games. As long as he stays fit, and as long as he plays in the center of the park, he should have another best-XI caliber year.

The Fear: The Timbers are perpetually a serious injury from Chara away from total collapse. The team is 0-18-11 in the last 29 games he hasn't started. But even more sobering, in a way, is the possibility that — one of these days — Chara will lose a step. Gavin Wilkinson said late last year that the club thinks he has three good years left. Here's hoping they're right.


The Expectation: That Polo, in year two, will be more effective more often than he was in his underwhelming rookie MLS campaign last year. He's almost certain to start on the right wing, given his pace and technical ability, and he should get to double digits in combined goals and assists.

The Hope: Polo had a few games last year — for the Timbers against Columbus, for Peru against the U.S. — that made his promise clear. If he can take it up a level in his second year in the league, like Sebastian Blanco did last year, he might be as valuable as any signing the club has made so far this winter.

The Fear: It's hard to overstate how frequently anonymous Polo was in 2018. He doesn't seem to possess outstanding attacking instincts, and, despite his pace, he might not be inventive enough to consistently carve out chances at this level.


The Expectation: Blanco was sensational in 2018, arguably just as good as Diego Valeri, reaching double digits in both goals and assists and at times single-handedly keeping the Timbers in games — most notably that second leg of the Western Conference Championship in Kansas City.

The Hope: If Blanco can replicate his numbers from last year, the Timbers will be thrilled. When he's hot, as he was for most of last year, he can be impossible to contain.

The Fear: Blanco plays right on the line at times, and isn't immune to crossing it — like when he was sent off in a friendly against Phoenix last week. If he doesn't take care to manage his emotion at times, he'll likely face a suspension or two.


The Expectation: Valeri has been a cut above from the first moment he stepped onto the Providence Park turf some six years ago, and the expectations since then have remained the same: that he'll be the club's best player on the field and its heartbeat off of it.

The Hope: That he stays healthy, primarily, but also perhaps that his goalscoring form rebounds from the slight dip it suffered last year.

The Fear: Valeri will turn 33 on the first of May, and he's made 71 starts between the regular and postseason in the last two years. The Maestro will need days off, much like Chara got last year, in a way that he hasn't needed this point in his Timbers career.


The Expectation: It was a tale of two seasons last year for Paredes, who was a bright spot in the spring before hitting a wall in the summer and not factoring into the team's playoff run. This year, the Timbers need to see maturation — physical and mental — and more consistency from the promising young midfielder.

The Hope: That Paredes can replicate over the course of an entire season what he showed in the first few months of last year. If he does, there's no reason he can't win a starting job.

The Fear: With Renzo Zambrano and Eryk Williamson both in the first-team fold, Paredes is facing pressure to prove himself early and often in 2019. If he doesn't, he faces another lost year and an uncertain future in the organization.


The Expectation: Williamson was a highly-touted player coming out of Maryland, and, in light of that, his first season was underwhelming. He looked sluggish at times, and was loaned out to Portugal for the second half of the season. He needs to show better this year.

The Hope: That, with the benefit of a year's professional experience, Williamson can find a second gear this year. He's clearly comfortable with the ball, and if he can add a measure of assertiveness to his game, both with the ball and without it, he'll look the part of a starting central midfielder in MLS.

The Fear: Williamson didn't look overwhelmed last year, but he also didn't look capable of seriously impacting the games he was a part of. With his small stature and relative lack of foot-speed, is that a sign of things to come?


The Expectation: The Timbers are, for obvious reasons, thinking about the future of their central midfield. Zambrano, a 24-year-old Venezuelan who excelled with T2 last season, might be a part of it.

The Hope: Zambrano played with real poise and precision in a U.S. Open Cup start against San Jose last summer, and he showed similarly with the USL club all year. If he can emerge from the competition with Paredes and Williamson, he'll get significant minutes.

The Fear: That he'll spend the vast majority of the year playing with T2 again.


The Expectation: That Loría, just 21, will be able to contribute significantly this year. He looked the part in his U.S. Open Cup minutes last season, just got his first Costa Rica cap, and could fill a need either backing up Valeri or on the wing.

The Hope: The Timbers didn't get a whole lot of attacking production outside of Valeri, Blanco, and the forward position last year. Polo's spot was a big reason why. If Loría is dangerous early in the year, it's not inconceivable that he could end it as a starter.

The Fear: That he's not ready to make a big impact yet — which, while it would be understandable, would also be the slightest of letdowns.


The Expectation: Flores ate a bunch of minutes for the Timbers last year, working hard in whatever midfield role he was assigned to, generally holding his own in possession, and not doing much beyond that. We'll likely see more of the same this season.

The Hope: Flores is a veteran at 28, but he was a newcomer to MLS last year year and appeared to struggle at times with the pace and physicality of the league. With a season under his belt, and a better understanding of how he fits within the Timbers' midfield, he might be able to make himself more effective in 2019.

The Fear: That he just doesn't have what it takes athletically or technically to contribute in any meaningful way at this level. That's certainly how it looked at times last year.


The Expectation: More minutes. Conechny only made four appearances last year, and lasted just 45 minutes in his lone start at Minnesota United. This year, better acclimated to MLS, he should establish himself as a consistent attacking option off the bench.

The Hope: The Timbers were high on Conechny when they signed him last summer, and, at 20, he has plenty of room to grow. As he matures physically and gets more games under his belt, he might begin to breakout.

The Fear: The physicality is a bit of a concern, given that Conechny is just 5'7 and doesn't appear have the quickness of a player like Blanco. How will he be able to create space for himself on the field, and what will he be able to do with it?


The Expectation: That Asprilla will one of the first attacking options off the bench, playing with the kind of abandon and athleticism that have, at times, made him a quite a handful for MLS defenses. He should be a threat in the air as well.

The Hope: That Asprilla finds some rhythm this season. He never did last year, trying to learn a new position and being shuffled in and out of the team, and he rarely looked like the player he was in 2017. If he gets some confidence, we'll see some very good soccer out of him.

The Fear: There is no question at this point that Asprilla is a severely limited soccer player, lacking the mental quickness, soft feet, and vision that make great attackers, and he can be extraordinarily frustrating to watch. It would not be such a surprise to see him fall down the depth chart and out of the picture.


Portland Timbers

The Expectation: Ebobisse's emergence down the stretch of 2018 as the club's starting striker was a hugely important part of the Timbers' MLS Cup run. Now a full U.S. international, he should aim to hit ten goals and 20 starts this year.

The Hope: That Ebobisse makes everyone forget about the prospect of a new DP striker. If he continues to refine his physical presence and works on his first touch, he might be able himself into the U.S.'s Gold Cup squad.

The Fear: Either that Ebobisse just isn't yet ready to carry a significant portion of the goalscoring load week in and week out, or that the Timbers do sign an expensive new striker and he doesn't play. Both would be, in their own ways, very bad outcomes for the club.


The Expectation: There really isn't one. Melano has featured in MLS competition 61 times for the Timbers, scored just six times, and played a lot of borderline unwatchable soccer. He should get backup minutes and stretch the field at the end of games.

The Hope: Some of Melano's better moments with the club came upon his return from Argentina last year, and they came with him simplifying his game and knowing when and where to get rid of the ball. If he can build on those moments, he'll be effective in spots this year.

The Fear: Another open goal miss.


Foster Langsdorf was prolific with T2 last year, scoring 14 goals in just 30 appearances. But he underwent knee surgery in November, and it's unclear whether or not Savarese rates him. He's hasn't featured significantly in the team's preseason.

Portland Timbers