With the Sounders down in Arizona this week, I decided to take a drive down to Portland for a little research on the Timbers. (I also hoped to do Vancouver this week, but they're also down in Arizona, where they will play a training game with the Sounders on Monday.)
Most of my interviewing down here will be for use in stories leading up to the start of the season. However, the general mood of the team was very upbeat. Ask a Timber if their goal is to make the playoffs after their near miss last season, and they'll quickly point out that they're aiming higher than that.
Darlington Nagbe: Last year our goal was to make the playoffs and have a good season. This year it's to go to the championship and win the championship. Hopefully we can get there.
Eric Brunner: Obviously expectations have grown. We're not a first-year club anymore. We're trying to go for the title. I think that should be everyone's ambition. I'm pretty sure that's just about every club's ambition. First and foremost, make the playoffs, it would be nice to get Supporters Shield: Get cups. That's what we're here for.
For all that, the day began with the unfortunate news that forward Jose Adolfo Valencia is scheduled to undergo knee surgery which is expected to cost him six to 12 months.
"You've got to think of him as a kid first," coach John Spencer said. "He's a boy, really, coming from a difference country, doesn't speak the language. ... We've not had him, so we don't know what we're missing, so to speak. So for us, it's get the surgery, try to rehab him to the best of our ability, and get him back on the field. I'm gutted for him as a person. I'm a father myself."