The Portland Timbers will be back to MAPFRE Stadium this Saturday for the first time since December 6, 2015. Remember that date? Yes, you should, as it was when the Oregon-based team defeated Columbus Crew SC in Ohio to win that year’s MLS Cup title.
After 475 days, a lot is different now since the teams clashed in the most important match of the 2015 Major League Soccer season. We take a look back at what has changed over the the short time since that epic game.
How the League changed
In 2015, Major League Soccer welcomed two expansion franchises, Orlando City SC and New York City FC, who brought top level international stars to the U.S. as Kaka, David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo. They were MLS’s 19th and 20th teams.
This year, MLS jumped to 22 teams, with Atlanta United and Minnesota United joining the fray. Los Angeles Football Club is set to join the League and Miami has also a spot assured to be the 24th club (we think). MLS plans on expanding to 28 franchises soon and two more will be revealed in 2017.
Changes also happened in the financial area. In 2015, MLS first implement the Targeted Allocation Money, popularly known as TAM. At that time, teams received $100,000 to spend in some specific ways. TAM became a key resource to build rosters and in 2017 each MLS franchise is granted $1.2 million per year.
How the teams changed
After competing on the 2015 MLS Cup, both Crew SC and the Portland Timbers faced a disappointing 2016 season. Both finalists missed the playoffs the next year, something that has never happened before on MLS history.
The season failure was not the only coincidence between the two, though, as both Crew SC and the Timbers launched audacious kits in 2016 with the Oregonian’s Black and Red jersey being arguably more popular than the Black & Gold’s “For Columbus” uniforms.
Regarding stadiums, the Timbers have already confirmed a plan to add 4,000 seats to the Providence Park, bringing the its capacity to 25,000. Crew SC, on the other hand, conducted a survey to explore the possibility of building a new stadium in Columbus.
How the rosters changed
Eight of the Crew SC’s starters in 2015 are still part of the club – fullbacks Harrison Afful and Waylon Francis, midfielders Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain and Justin Meram and injured defender Gaston Sauro. Head coach Gregg Berhalter also remains.
Gone are starting forward Kei Kamara, traded to the New England Revolution, captain Michael Parkhurst, shipped to Atlanta United, and goalkeeper Steve Clark, who made a huge mistake early in that match and now plays in Denmark.
From the bench players, only goalkeeper Brad Stuver and versatile midfielder Hector Jimenez are still around, with Tyson Wahl retired and Mohammed Saeid, Jack McInerney, Chris Klute and Cedrick Mabwati all having parted ways with Crew SC.
From the Timbers side, six players who were in the starting 11 that day remain in Portland, as well as head coach Caleb Porter – right back Alvas Powell, center back Liam Ridgewell, midfielders Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri and forward Fanendo Adi.
Starting goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, back in Norway, retired defender Nat Borches, left back Jorge Villafaña, now with Mexican Santos Laguna and U.S. Men’s National Team, midfielder Rodney Wallace, back in MLS after stints in Portugal and Brazil, and forward Lucas Melano, loaned to Argentinean Club Atletico Belgrano, will not be back in Ohio this Saturday.
Goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and forward Dairon Asprilla are the Timbers’ only substitutes who are still in the club, besides of midfielder Jack Jewsbury, who retired and is now part of their front office. Gone are defenders Norberto Paparatto and Taylor Peay, midfielder Will Johnson and forward Maximiliano Urruti.
A lot has changed in just over over a year, but the real question is, will the result be the same Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium?