15-8-11 (W-T-L), 53 pts., 3rd in Western Conference
2015 Goals For:
41, Tied for 18th in MLS
2015 Goals Against:
39, Tied for 3rd in MLS
2015 Key Statistic:
16 goals, Fanendo Adi (7th in MLS), 13 Clean Sheets, Kwarasey (1st in MLS), 68 Key Passes, Darlington Nagbe (6th for midfielders in MLS),
Chris Klute, Jack McInerney
Will Johnson, Jorge Villafana, Maximiliano Urruti
What they have going for them:
Portland is greater than the sum of it's parts, and figured that out in 2015 to win MLS Cup. They figured out their formation: a 4-3-3 with Diego Chara playing the deep defensive role. They figured out their personnel, moving Nagbe to central midfield paired with Diego Valeri, and bringing in Nat Borchers to command the backline. They did it with their tactics and play, as they could use Fanendo Adi to strong arm his way for goals, or ping it backwards to rushing wing players, or have Lucas Melano or Maxi Urriti skip and dance the ball into the net.
Still. They didn't score a lot of goals. They just scored a lot of goals right when they needed them. Had they not finished the year by schwacking the Rapids 4-1, Portland would have scored fewer goals than they conceded. I say this team is greater than all its parts put together because they don't have an elite scorer, like Columbus, or dominant midfield play, like Toronto, or a suffocating defense like San Jose or Dallas. They are pretty darn good at everything, and bring it to bear on their opponents. You can't give Nagbe too much space, or he'll explode through the midfield. You need to body up Adi, or he'll score on you. You can't concede the wings, because Dairon Asprilla will do this
or Alvas Powell can burn down the flank and cross. You can't easily break down their defense, because Borchers and Ridgewell and Diego Chara and Adam Kwarasey are almost always inch-perfect, all the time. This team is very good, and very fun to watch too.
Not much. The only quibble here is that the Timbers didn't do much in the offseason, assuming that a full year with mid-season transfer Lucas Melano is enough. Jack MacInerney will be the late-game sneaky poacher that causes headaches for defenses that just spent the last 75 minutes trying to figure out the very different style of Fanendo Adi. They sent Jorge Villafana off to Liga MX, and will replace him with Chris Klute, I guess. Klute couldn't impress enough for a regular role in either Columbus or Colorado, so that might not be a good move.
Mostly, this team stood pat over the offseason - everyone else in MLS got better, and Portland just hopes that the plan that worked in 2015 will be enough. That seems like enough to get back to the playoffs, but it might not be enough to repeat as Cup champions.
They cruise back to the playoffs, finishing 3rd, 4th or 5th. But they don't make it to a final in a stacked MLS Western Conference.