KRIS BOYD has scored goals around the world, but until he landed in Portland, none had ever scored him a round of wood.
"It was a bit strange at first," said Boyd about the Timbers' traditional post-match celebration of awarding freshly sliced slabs of logs to goal scorers. "I hope I get used to it with a few more between now and the end of the season."
That's precisely what Portland's Major League Soccer team had in mind when it gave the 28-year-old striker and Scottish Premier League's all-time leading scorer a seven-figure deal to lure him Stateside. "He is here for one reason and one reason only: to score goals," said Portland coach John Spencer during his fellow Scotsman's introductory press conference, an event that lasted about as long as it took for Boyd to get his first goal in a Timbers jersey—seven minutes into Portland's preseason finale against Swedish club AIK on March 4.
And while Boyd quickly answered whether he could help one of MLS' lowest-scoring teams of 2011 find the net, time will tell if he can help Portland reach its longer-term goal of making the playoffs in its sophomore campaign. With the core of last year's team returning and added depth in many of the positions, the Timbers have improved with every offseason move, a necessary trend should they hope to grab one of five postseason spots in a tough Western Conference.
"Technically, we haven't gotten any different, and no one's gone out and all the sudden become Pelé," said Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins. "But we have the confidence of saying, 'You know what? We're not an expansion team anymore.'
"We know what to expect now." That includes unbridled support from fans, who spurred the Timbers to five straight MLS home wins early last year and looked all the more important to Portland's fortunes as the team struggled to a 2-9-6 record away from its Army of adorers. With a season together under their belts, rising stars Diego Chará and Darlington Nagbe will be expected to produce at levels worthy of their potential, while recent signing Franck Songo'o could add more creativity to a midfield featuring the ever-confident Kalif Alhassan and the ever-steady Jack Jewsbury.
So far, it's all added up to their second straight undefeated preseason, but as they enter into games that matter, the Timbers improvement will be tied to their success at enabling Boyd to accomplish what he was brought in to do.
"Yeah, there's a lot of pressure on me to score goals, but at the same time, it's one I thrive on," Boyd said as reporters surrounded his locker on Sunday for what will likely be the first of many times. "It's what I've done all my career."