By ADAM SERRANO
The Portland Timbers hope their look in their first year in MLS not as a typical expansion franchise, but instead as a powerhouse in the nation's top league.
The Rose City faithful will have much to be excited about in their first year in MLS with a club that appears focused on being electrifying right out of the gate. With players like forward Kenny Cooper, rookie Darlington Nagbe and Colombian trialist Jorge Perlaza, the Timbers appear ready for fireworks in 2011.
With all of their attacking power, it remains to be seen how the Timbers will manage keep the ball out of their own net. To bolster the defense, the club traded for veteran Troy Perkins from D.C. United, and he'll need to marshall a young and relatively inexperienced back line. With a cast ranging from Rodney Wallace to former Arsenal defender Kerrea Gilbert, the Timbers ability to defend may be the difference between being a contender or a pretender in the highly-competitive Western Conference.
Here is a look at the preseason plans of the Portland Timbers:
Training Schedule: Feb. 10-16 in Portland; Feb. 18-26 at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Ariz.; Feb. 28-March 18 in Portland.
Preseason Game Schedule: Feb. 8 vs. L.A. Galaxy at Home Depot Center; Feb. 19 vs. Houston Dynamo; Feb. 23 vs. Montreal Impact at Casa Grande; March 4 vs. Seattle Sounders, March 7 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps at Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila, Wash.
Key Arrivals: GK – Troy Perkins; D – Rodney Wallace, Kerrea Gilbert; MF – Jeremy Hall, Peter Lowry; F – Darlington Nagbe, Kenny Cooper.
Key Departures: None (inaugural season).
What to Watch For: In the club's first year in MLS, head coach John Spencer is eager to make an immediate splash. With the addition of Cooper and potential signing of Perlaza, the Timbers have an experienced forward line that should cause a great deal of stress for rival defenses. The pair will need to be integrated into the squad soon with First Kick on the horizon. Perlaza is still currently on trial with the club having not formally joined the club yet, while Cooper is still in Germany getting his affairs in order before joining the Timbers.
Apart from the international additions, the real question will surround the performance of the Timbers' top draft pick, Nagbe. Already earning buzz as a Rookie of the Year candidate, Nagbe looks to be an integral part to the Timbers attack. A speedy attacker, Nagbe looks to be the "glue" type of player that could link up and help lead attacks for Portland. He has already scored his first goal with the club in the Timbers' 1-1 tie with the Ventura County Fusion earlier in the month.
Of Note: The Timbers currently have eight members from last year's team signed to contract with the club and another seven that are currently on trial…Forward Bright Dike will miss six to nine months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn achillies tendon…The Timbers preseason preperations include the "Cascadia Summit" in the first week of March, when the club will face off against each of its Northwest Rivals at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash….Portland will open its renovated PGE Park on April 14 against the Chicago Fire.