A look back: The Timbers U-23s' 2011 season

Season of highs, lows has its share of notable moments

U-23s head coach Jim Rillat

Photo Credit: 
Craig Mitchelldyer

PORTLAND, Ore.– Coming off an historic season in 2010, the expectations were high for the 2011 Portland Timbers U-23s in the Premier Development League. A hot start to the 2011 campaign had many seeing the Timbers U-23s contending for the top spot in the Northwest Division. But struggles through the second half of the season saw the team miss the playoffs for the first time in its three seasons.

Off to a good start …
The Timbers U-23s overcame a season-opening loss to the Victoria Highlanders to post a four-game unbeaten run during the opening stages of the season. The team’s unbeaten stretch started with impressive road performance in a 6-0 win over the Washington Crossfire (May 15) followed by scoreless draw against eventual division-champion Kitsap Pumas (May 21). Aiding in the unbeaten run was the backline’s ability to string together four straight clean sheets. By winning four of their first eight games of the season, the Timbers U-23s were in contention for their second straight division title through the first half of the season.

Oh so close, again …
As in seasons past, the Timbers U-23s’ first half of the season featured four qualifying matches for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament. And for a second straight season, the Timbers U-23s finished qualifying dead even – through three tiebreakers – with the Pumas. A coin flip was meant to be the original final tiebreaker to determine which team would represent the division and league in the tournament.

As fate would have it, the Timbers U-23s and Pumas were scheduled to face one another in regular-season play following the series of qualification matches. For the first time in the PDL’s history, the two sides determined the final tiebreaker on the field for Open Cup qualification on June 3 at JELD-WEN Field. A team-record crowd of 4,754 saw the Timbers U-23s fall 3-2 to the Kitsap, and for a second straight season the Timbers U-23s’ hopes of a run in the U.S. Open Cup tournament fell short as a result of tiebreakers at the hand of the Pumas.

Stumbling to the finish …
The tide turned on the Timbers U-23s’ fortune near the midway point in the season. Back-to-back losses to Abbotsford and Vancouver during a two-game road trip in mid June – the first set of back-to-back losses as a PDL team – would start the second half of the season on a sour note.

The setbacks started an unfortunate trend over the second half of the campaign as the Timbers U-23s lost four of their final eight games and struggled through a five-game winless stretch. Mustering just two wins in their last eight games, the Timbers U-23s missed out on the postseason for the first time in team history. The team’s season came to a close with a 5-1 road win over the North Sound SeaWolves, featuring a hat trick from forward Erik Hurtado, on July 22. The Timbers U-23s concluded their third PDL season with a 6-6-4 record and in fourth place in the Northwest Division.

Setting the record …
The 2011 campaign saw the Timbers U-23s set a new team record for highest single-game attendance at 4,754 on June 3 at JELD-WEN Field as part of the team’s Health and Fitness School Day, presented by Providence Health & Services. In total, the Timbers U-23s had three crowds of over 2,000 fans during the season, helping the team set a new team record for overall season attendance at 12,246.

Richards leading the way …
Highlighting the second half of the campaign was the performance of 2010 PDL MVP Brent Richards, who finished 2011 as the team’s leading scorer for a second straight season. Richards, a native of Camas, Wash., recorded a goal or an assist in each of the team’s last seven matches of the season, finishing the campaign with eight goals and a team-high six assists. He had a hat trick in the team’s first win of the season over Washington, earning PDL Player of the Week honors in Week 3. Richards received PDL Team of the Week honorable mention three times over the final four weeks of the season.

Hats off to Richards, Hurtado for hat tricks in 2011 …
Behind the efforts of Richards and forward Erik Hurtado, the Timbers U-23s scored two hat tricks in 2011, recording just the third and fourth, respectively, in the team’s history. The first of the two came from Richards in the 6-0 victory over the Washington Crossfire on May 15. In three seasons with the Timbers U-23s, Richards has two hat tricks to his credit.

Hurtado notched his hat trick in a 5-1 victory over the North Sound SeaWolves in the Timbers U-23s’ regular-season finale July 22. Richards and Hurtado each earned PDL Player of the Week honors – Richards in Week 3 and Hurtado in Week 12 – following their hat-trick performances.

A scoring punch …
The Timbers scored 34 goals in 16 matches, ranking second in the Northwest Division in goals scored in 2011 behind Kitsap. Portland ranked among the division’s scoring leaders for a third straight season. Richards and Hurtado shared the team lead in goals scored, with eight each, but it was Richards’ six assists that placed him on top of Timbers U-23s scorers for a second straight season. Hurtado registered eight goals in eight games for the Timbers U-23s.

Rounding out the team’s scoring leaders was forward Miles Byass, who netted six goals in 2011, including four total goals in games against the Tacoma Tide. In total, nine different players scored for the Timbers U-23s this season.

And the award goes to …
Highlighting the Timbers U-23s’ season was the 2011 All-Western Conference honors awarded to Richards and defender Ryan Kawulok; both players earned their second straight all-conference selection. Among the several individual accomplishments, the Timbers U-23s had two players named the PDL Player of the Week, four PDL Team of the Week selections (Richards, Hurtado, Bim Ogunyemi and Dylan Tucker) and five different players named Team of the Week honorable mention (Byass, Hurtado, Ogunyemi, Richards, goalkeeper Jason Dodson).