The Portland Timbers may not have made it to the playoffs for their first season of Major League Soccer (MLS) play, but they sure gave any fans who set their eyes on the team a great show. The Timbers entered 2011 as a new franchise to grace the MLS and as the kickoff of their first match grew near, so did the anticipation. With that anticipation came many questions of how the new squad would do.
Let me tell you: They did not disappoint.
David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the rest of the LA Galaxy club came to Portland for the first time ever this past season. What they didn't expect was the Portland Timbers to shut them out 3-0 and shut down their league-high 14-game undefeated streak.
The win didn't come easily for the Timbers as they were without All-Star midfielder Jack Jewsbury, but they finally found momentum as they were on a six-game winless home-game streak at the time.
As the Timbers journeyed to Kansas City, rookie Darlington Nagbe made his name known not only on the pitch but on the Internet as well. Nagbe dribbled the ball twice only to rocket the ball from 90 yards out. The key to the success of this shot was that the ball never touched the turf once.
The Timbers found a man who can do all they could ever ask for and so much more: Troy Perkins.
On July 16th in Chicago, Perkins literally drove across Lake Michigan to make a save from a threat by Marco Pappa.
This not only saved the Timbers from going either to a 1-1 draw or suffering a loss but also gave Perkins a huge boost of confidence for the rest of the season.
Jack was not only Portland's first-ever MLS All-Star but he was also a main focal piece of the team with his leadership. Jewsbury was a dominating force on the field as he was the leader in set pieces. He had eight assists and 22 points, ranking first among his teammates. He was also ranked second in goals with seven. These are all career-highs for Jack.
Portland fans know they have someone special in Jack and will continue to embrace him.
Timbers fans had someone to cheer for every time the ball was kicked off to begin each match, and that was Diego Chara. He joined the team as a Colombia Designated Player and improved throughout the season, finishing with two goals and four assists.
Portland fans can count on him to continue improving and benefiting this new and skilled squad.
The Portland Timbers will continue to improve on what they have seen from their first year of being an MLS franchise through the new players they might obtain during the offseason and who they will bring up through their system.
Portland fans embrace the team's decisions as they come out and pack Jeld-Wen Field for every match, showing the team support that resembles the intensity of an English Premiere League match.
Kenny Cooper was a dominant beast every night on the pitch. He was also a force that put fear in his opponents.
Cooper led the team with eight goals and two assists. Fans quickly grew to love him as he led the team to new horizons. He slowly faded away towards the end of the season, but Timbers fans didn't worry one bit. They knew Cooper would bounce back and dominate as he had all season.
Only next year will tell what kind of improvements he will make. I don't see him slowing down anytime soon.
Ah, rivalries. They are one of the biggest moments in any sports fan's year. We all know the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are rivals, but for Northwest soccer fans, the rivalry is between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers.
As both teams have a long history with one another, it goes to show that not all rivalries are friendly. This year, with the Timbers entering their first MLS season, it was time for the games to not only count for geographic dominance but also for the standings.
The Timbers didn't fear the Sounders as they battled to a 1-1 draw in the first match but unfortunately lost 2-3 in the second matchup.
I don't see the Timbers surrendering to the Sounders anytime soon as they will look to win every year. Only time will tell the true story of what will unfold.
John Spencer came into Portland to make this club a winning team. Even though the Timbers didn't make it to the playoffs, they did find a coach that helped them excel. Spencer led a club that worked to play each and every night as if it were the last game of their lives. This boiled over to not only the performance but also each player's camaraderie with one another.
As the team reaches the beginning of the 2012 season, look to see Spencer propel his club to expectations that not only beat last year's marks but also excel them out of Rose City.
What can we say about the Timbers Army other than the fact that they are incredible? The Timbers Army is Portland's most avid group of followers who boost this team up every moment of every match. Without the Army, the team probably would be as normal as any other club in the MLS.
As the popularity of the team grows, the Army continues to grow. The Portland Timbers have announced that they have completely sold out of 2012 season tickets, but the Timbers Army won't let that stop them from packing their sections and showing the visiting teams just what they have up their sleeves.
So sit back and take in the atmosphere every second of the match and the join the Timbers Army in singing "God Bless America."