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2015 Western Conference Preview: Portland Timbers

The most exciting team not to make the playoffs in 2014. Can they turn disappointment into motivation for 2015?

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Timbers

2014 Record: (12-9-13) 49 points--Sixth in Western Conference.  Missed Playoffs

2014 Goals For: 61, Third in MLS

2014 Goals Against: 52, 14th in MLS

2014 Key Statistic: Diego Chara was 2nd in MLS for tackles with 118, and was 1st in fouls with 82. The next most was Matias Laba with 64 (!)

Key Additions: Adam Kwarasey, Nat Borchers, Dairon Asprilla, Alvas Powell,

Key Subtractions: Donovan Ricketts, Pa Modu Kah, Steve Zakuani, Michael Harrington

2015 Forecast: Playoffs. Probably.

What they have got going for them: The Timbers are probably the most perplexing team in MLS. They had more goals than goals conceded by 9, but missed the playoffs. That was in part due to an early season swoon where they failed to win their first 9 games, and in part due to the Rapids losing the last game of the year to the Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-0, in what was one of the worst games they played in a season full of worst games. However, they field an exciting lineup that can score buckets of goals, and play an up tempo attacking football. Darlington Nagbe, Gaston Fernandez and Diego Valeri form a fantastic and fun-to-watch attack. Fanendo Adi and Maxi Urruti provide talented depth. The team should more than manage while Will Johnson recovers from knee surgery a broken leg.

Diego Chara is the player you love to hate; or that you hate to play, but would love to have on your team. I was so accustomed to him hacking down Western Conference players that I mentally penciled his red card tally in as the team’s key 2014 stat. Amazingly, although he had the most fouls in MLS and the most yellows, he never once picked up a red.

Portland added a World Cup keeper in Ghana’s Adam Kwarasey and a young goal-scoring midfielder from Colombia’s Petrolero in Dairon Asprilla. This team could be really good in 2015, and really fun to watch.

What’s troubling: Almost every team in the Western Conference got better in the offseason, but it’s hard to tell if that’s the case with Portland. They lost veteran keeper Donovan Ricketts and fullback Michael Harrington, but picked up Kwarasey and Nat Borchers. Hard to tell if that means they’ll be better or just ‘not worse’. ‘Not worse’ is probably not gonna get to the playoffs in the Western Conference this year