My, what a busy week it's been for Portland's Major League Soccer club:
Its first road win, a wild, last-second friendly loss to an English Premiere League side and two roster-tightening transactions later, and now the Timbers face a critical test at Columbus tonight (5 p.m. on Fox 12, 750 AM) in the team's final MLS match before Wednesday's All-Star game.
Portland will look to start its first-ever road winning streak in the sweltering Midwest heat, and they'll have a bit more help on defense. On Thursday, the Timbers parlayed one defender (little-used Adam Moffat) for one-and-a-half more (defender Lovel Palmer and defender/midfielder Mike Chabala), as PTFC added depth to one of two MLS clubs to yield more than 30 goals this season. The Timbers (who also picked up an international roster slot and sent allocation money to Houston in the deal) then made some space for the new guys in the locker room late Friday afternoon by loaning 2010 Division-2 Golden Boot-wearer Ryan Pore to the Montreal Impact.
Transactions (have we hit "several" yet?) aside, Portland will certainly have its work cut out if the Timbers hope to become just the second visiting team to get a win at Crew Stadium. But with an emerging offense and the hot hand of keeper Troy Perkins, today's match presents a genuine opportunity to dip a toe back into the playoff hunt before the All-Star break and two home matches in five days. Of course, a win today for Columbus could vault the Crew to a tie atop the Eastern Conference standings, despite having just seven more points than the Timbers.
More thoughts after the jump, plus video of your newest Timbers and EXTRA TIME links for cast and crew.
Portland's newest professional soccer players caught up with the team on Saturday, and both Chalaba and Palmer seemed eager to showcase their game in front of what Palmer called "the best fans in the league."
You hate to see Pore, a fan favorite and new father, suddenly uprooted and sent to Canada (all part of the business), but adding to a D that could use a push looks like a savvy move at this point for Portland. There's a possibility we could get our first glimpse at either today, but Palmer and Chalaba's real impact will be in the coming weeks, when underachieving defenders are forced to raise their games to a bit of healthy competition at practice.
EXTRA TIME! Links that always dot the "i"
• The Timbers carry "a renewed sense of confidence" into Columbus today, says Geoffrey C. Arnold of The O.
• Columbus looks a bit like Portland's last opponent, Chicago: "plugging gaps left by injuries, frustrated with recent performances, not giving up many goals, but not scoring many either," says John Strong on the Timbers' official site, which also breaks down the match-up between the keepers.
• Timbers coach John Spencer is liking the direction rookie Darlington Nagbe is progressing, says Dan Itel of MLSsoccer.com.
• Portland defender Eric Brunner is happy to return home to the Buckeye State, says Stephen Alexander of The Trib.
• Is it high time to get Kenny Cooper back on the pitch? Timbers Insider Kelly McLain ponders the striker's possible impact on the team's new formation.
• Timbers owner Merritt Paulson is No. 2 on John Canzano's "25 most influential people in Oregon sports not named John Canzano," along with Timbers' COO Mike Golub (11), Timbers Army (15) and head coach John Spencer (21).
• Timber Joey: Health and Safety Nightmare, according to the Metro.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!