Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - The Portland Timbers enter the 2015 season with the aim of rebounding from a disappointing campaign.
Portland enjoyed a splendid 2013 season, finishing on 57 points to put the club atop the Western Conference and within two points of the MLS Supporters' Shield.
A couple of key offseason moves appeared to put the Timbers in good stead for the 2014 season, but plethora of draws (13, in total) saw the club finish the regular season with 49 points, one point back of Vancouver Whitecaps FC for the final playoff berth in the West.
Portland's goal for 2015 is clear: return to prominence by locking up a spot in the postseason.
In order to achieve this objective, the club has added some key reinforcements, both in defense and in attack.
First-choice goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was selected by Orlando City SC in the MLS Expansion Draft, a move that forced Portland to sign Ghana international Adam Larsen Kwarasey.
The Timbers also moved to solidify the defensive unit in front of Kwarasey by signing longtime Real Salt Lake leader Nat Borchers.
Borchers, 33, will slot into the center of Portland's defense alongside Designated Player Liam Ridgewell, who joined the Timbers following an accomplished spell at English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion.
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter seems pleased with how his projected defensive lineup is shaping up, labeling the trio of Borchers, Ridgewell and Kwarasey "the backbone of the team."
"That makes me feel good going into each game knowing that I've got three very experienced guys there (in defense)," Porter said.
Brazilian left-back Jeanderson has signed for the Timbers to round out a defensive stable that also consists of Jorge Villafana, Taylor Peay and Norberto Paparatto.
Portland's midfield remains largely unchanged from last season, and Will Johnson will once again be the centerpiece. A box-to-box player, Johnson's ability to create on the offensive end and disrupt the opposition will be instrumental to determining how far the Timbers can go.
Diego Valeri will hope to produce another MVP-calibre season, while Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace and Diego Chara will look to add some dynamism in attack.
Portland relied heavily on Gaston Fernandez for key goals last term, and while others chipped in, Fanendo Adi will need to make greater contributions in order for the Timbers to be legitimate playoff contenders.
ADDITIONS: Darion Asprilla (F), Nat Borchers (D), Jeanderson (D), Adam Larsen Kwarasey (GK).
LOSSES: Donovan Ricketts (GK), Steve Zakuani (M).
OUTLOOK: All the peices are in place for Portland to make a second-ever appearance in the MLS postseason. Truth be told, the Timbers should have qualified last season, but a host of matches with dropped points proved to be the team's undoing. Porter will not stand for that in 2015 as he cannot afford another season without playoff soccer.