Portland, OR (Sports Network)
The Portland Timbers enjoyed a debut season in Major League Soccer full of highs and lows, but they were always entertaining.
With a brand of soccer predicated on speed and enthusiasm, the Timbers produced enjoyable matches on a regular basis.
Portland also featured one of the best stadium atmospheres in the league as the Jeld-Wen Field faithful, known as the Timbers Army, were always in full song.
But the attractive sporting environment and style of play on the pitch did not always lead to desired results.
The Timbers finished the season in a respectable position for an expansion franchise. They ended the regular season in sixth place in the Western Conference on 42 points, and narrowly missed the playoffs.
John Spencer and his men could be poised for season of marked improvement in 2012, as the club appears to have addressed many of the overlying concerns this offseason.
One of the biggest problems Portland faced last season was a leaky defense. The Timbers conceded 48 goals, 31 of which came in the first half of the season.
The front office made some key additions in a bid to solidify the back line, bringing in Colombian Hayner Mosquera and using its first-round SuperDraft pick to select highly-touted defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste. While there are still some question marks over how effective Portland's outside back will prove to be, if the new defensive duo can make contributions, the club will see more stability in the back.
Portland was also left to rue its horrid road form in 2011.
The Timbers posted a 2-9-6 record away from Jeld-Wen Field, only managing more road points than the New England Revolution, Toronto FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
The club will have to do without its leading scorer from last season as Kenny Cooper was dealt to Red Bull New York. Portland acquired a more-than-adequate replacement, though, snapping up the Scottish Premier League's all-time leading scorer, Kris Boyd.
Boyd should be a better fit for Spencer's system than Cooper as the Scottish striker likes to station himself as close to goal as possible and play off his teammates. His success will be reliant on quality service from Portland's midfield.
2011 IN REVIEW: Portland started the 2011 season with blazing home form, winning its first five matches. But poor form away from home ultimately doomed the Rose City to an 11-14-9 record, leaving the Timbers four points shy of a playoff spot.
ACQUISITIONS: Joe Bendik (GK), Kris Boyd (F), Andrew Jean-Baptiste (D), Hayner Mosquera (D), Charles Renken (M), Brent Richards (F), Franck Songo'o (M), Jose Adolfo Valencia (F).
LOSSES: Adin Brown (GK), Kenny Cooper (F), Kevin Goldthwaite (D), Rodrigo Lopez (M), Peter Lowry (M), Ryan Pore (F), Brian Umony (F).
OUTLOOK: Based on its offseason acquisitions and how close it came to a postseason berth last year, Portland would appear to be a primed for a seat in the playoffs in 2012. But due to the league's format change, the Timbers will play more regional matches against formidable Western Conference opponents and have to crack the top five make the playoffs. Road form, particularly against its Western Conference foes, will be the key for Portland.