The Portland Timbers Quarter Season Recap

With 10 games officially in the books in the 2023 MLS season, the Portland Timbers have had a tumultuous start to the season. How do they stack up against other years and what has been the good, bad, and ugly for Portland thus far this season?
Portland Timbers v Sporting Kansas City
Portland Timbers v Sporting Kansas City / Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/GettyImages

We are officially a quarter (28% to be exact) of the way through the 2024 MLS season, and the Portland Timbers have been one of the more perplexing teams thus far, 10 games into their campaign. The Timbers currently sit in 11th place, two points out of the final play-in spot, and at times, have looked like a non-playoff team. They have shown moments of complete defensive clumsiness, which has cost them some significant points.

But at other times, the Timbers have shown moments of brilliance. Moments that show the true potential this team has: a top-three team in the Western Conference.

Timbers supporters knew there would be growing pains with first-year manager Phil Neville at the helm, and those growing pains have been showing so far. Frustratingly enough, for the Timbers Army, slow starts are something they are accustomed to, as Portland has been notorious for their less-than-stellar starts to their seasons.

Portland is a point behind the 2022 and 2023 seasons and three points behind the 2023 pace. All three were under former manager Giovanni Savarese. Not entirely completely off pace, but Portland suppoerters would hope for more of a talented Timbers team. supporters

                              2021- 9 games, (4-1-5) 13 points, MLS Cup Appearance
                  2022- 9 games, (2-5-3) 11 points, Missed playoffs
                2023- 8 games, (3-2-5) 11 points, Missed Playoffs
2024- 10 games, (2-4-4) 10 points, ??? 

So, with the Timbers on a very erratic, yet predictable, start to the season, what has been the good, the bad, and the ugly so far in 2024 for the Portland Timbers? 

The Good

The Talent

General Manager Ned Grabavoy and the rest of the Portland front office have made it clear that they are in it to win it, despite Las Vegas's odds on the Timbers at the beginning of the season. The acquisition of Jonathan Rodríguez from Liga MX's side Club America filled a need for the Timbers that they were desperate to fill: a versatile 9.

But it's not just Rodriguez who brings creativity to the pitch. The new-ish addition Antony, the returning Claudio Bravo, the elusive Santiago Moreno, and the consistent constant Diego Chara are all players who make this one of the best rosters in MLS. 

Also, the addition of Rodriguez, the previous center-forward, Felipe Mora, has made it incredibly difficult for Neville to keep him out of the starting 11. Mora had scored four goals in four consecutive games. The streak ended last weekend against LAFC. Mora is tied with Evander for the team lead, with four goals. Positional competition within the Timbers has brought out the best in the team.

The Timbers currently sit in third in MLS with 20  goals. Having Mora and Rodriguez on the pitch simultaneously can become an effective way to have the Timbers play with their foot on the gas, which is how they have shown to play best this season.

The offense production has been there this season because of how deep they are on the attacking end. They also score an outstanding .86 xG vs. Actual goals, which is tied for first in the league stat measures a team's actual goals scored versus expected goals scored.

They are literally outscoring their expectations. The result versus Columbus Crew is what the TImbers can be this season. Although the Timbers would have loved the three points on the road, as they were up late in the game, most MLS teams will not get that result in Columbus this season.

One player in particular will set the tone for the Timbers moving forward in 2024, and that continue this hot offensive start for them. The aforementioned Evander will ultimately determine how far Portland goes this season.

In 10 games, Evander already has four goals, tied for sixth in MLS, and is on pace to beat his mark of nine goals in the 2023 season. Evander is also tied for fourth in MLS with four assists. He has also played as many as three games less than some of his counterparts.

His playmaking ability to score goals and create for others will make Evander a critical part of the team moving forward. Once he and Rodriguez can find chemistry, the Timbers can excel. This partnership will also depend on how Neville decides to play Evander in the season. Hopefully, it will be as the playmaker Evander can be.

The Bad 

The Defense

Unfortunately, for as good as they have been on offense, they have been that bad on defense. That's one of the big reasons the Timbers don't have more results this season. While Portland is averaging 2.00 goals per game this season, which is tied for third in MLS, they are also conceding 2.10 goals per game, tied for second worst.

In terms of xG, the Timbers are dead last for expected conceded goals in MLS with  1.84 xG. Portland is ranked 28 out of 29 teams with 21 goals conceded. Only the San Jose Earthquakes are worse with 25 conceded goals. They have yet to record a clean sheet in 10 games—one of two teams to accomplish that, the other being, again, the Earthquakes. While fun, as you know goals will be scored in Portland games, it's not a recipe for success. 

This is almost a "chicken vs. egg" situation, as we don't know if the offense is legitimately that good or if the offense has needed to be that good to make up for the lack of defensive help consistency on the back line.

The defense looked at it worse during the three-game losing streak, which would have turned into a four-game losing streak if not for an all-time comeback against Sporting KC on Matchday 7. They allowed three goals in three consecutive games, which earned them only one point during that stretch.  

Things seemed to have turned a corner over, as the backline put on two decent performances against LAFC-- the first time-- and then the Crew. A 48th-minute red card to goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau seemed to spell doom for the TImbers.

But a valiant defensive effort, being down a man for nearly 50 minutes, kept the result a 2-2 tie at home versus LAFC. And against the Columbus Crew, a worldly goal from Steven Moreira overshadowed the best defensive showing Portland had all season.

Unfortunately, any goodwill or progression they had made in those two games was completely wiped out, as two awareness-less first-half goals on the road against LAFC, dug the Timbers in a hole that they almost got themselves out of. Another red card had the Timbers down a man and could not hold one for the point on the road.

If the Timbers can keep the offensive productivity and SOMEHOW fix their defensive woes, they can be a dangerous team in the Western Conference for the remainder of 2024. All that hinges on the changes Neville can do to sturdy up his backline.

The Ugly 

Is the effort there? Neville certainly thought some of the players seemed to have been phoning it in during the first half against SKC: 

"I was questioning whether these players would be Portland Timbers players at halftime. The first half was unacceptable. I told the players at halftime that I wasn't going to put up with it anymore."

From the tone of that quote, it isn't the first time Neville has had to deal with this from his team. But, from the results lately, this has been an issue. The team is playing with more passion and creativity. This reflects explicitly on Evander, as many criticized him for this body language on the field. Still, if the productivity on the field is any indication, the Brazilian might be an emotional player. 

We will need to see moving forward this season to see if the effort will be there for the full 90 minutes. 


After a great start to the season, a three-game losing streak put the Timbers behind the 8-ball and started them on one of their patented slow starts.

The Timbers Army should expect an exciting rest of the season, as they will have a team with the offensive firepower to keep up with anyone. Unfortunately, they may have to deal with a defense that will give up as many goals as the offense scores. Either way, the Portland Timbers will have a wild rest of the 2024 season.