The Portland Timbers U-23s’ 2012 Premier Development League (PDL) season, presented by Billups Worldwide, was one that will not be easily forgotten. The Timbers U-23s assembled a perfect start to the season, earned numerous accolades, set a new PDL attendance record and took part in their first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup during another successful season under head coach Jim Rilatt. The team capped its season by reaching the Western Conference semifinals for a second time in three seasons.
A hot start
The Timbers U-23s made a strong statement to the rest of the Northwest Division by opening the campaign with wins in each of their first five matches (5-0-0). A 3-0 season-opening win over Fraser Valley Mariners FC at JELD-WEN Field set the tone for the team’s first third of the season and helped create momentum heading into a big early season matchup with division rivals the Kitsap Pumas.
On May 24, the Timbers U-23s and Pumas squared off in the first of two Health & Fitness School Days, presented by Providence Sports Care Center, at JELD-WEN Field. The Timbers U-23s received a brace by midfielder Steven Evans and midfielder Cam Vickers tallied two assists in a 4-0 shut-out victory, the team’s first of four clean sheets on the season.
Portland would go on to win its next two games, defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 twice in five days. It took a stoppage time goal by the Seattle Sounders FC U-23 to snap the Timbers U-23s’ perfect start, as Portland took 1-0 road loss on June 23.
During the Timbers U-23s roaring start, they scored 15 goals, recorded three shutouts and conceded just two goals.
U.S. Open Cup
One of the highlights of the season was the team’s first participation in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Timbers U-23s played host to PSA Elite of the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and the USASA Region IV champions in the first round of the 2012 tournament on May 15 at JELD-WEN Field.
Recognized for their efforts
Over the course of the season, several Timbers U-23s players were recognized by the PDL for their individual performances. Forward Mark Sherrod took home PDL Player of the Week honors in Week 3 after notching a hat trick against Victoria Highlanders FC on May 19. In all, 12 Timbers U-23s players received PDL weekly honors, including Team of the Week selections for Sherrod and Eric Miller; 10 others received honorable mentions.
Timbers U-23s midfielder/defender Eric Miller received two call-ups to the U.S. U-20 National Team during the 2012 PDL campaign. He joined the team for a South American tour to Uruguay and Chile in June and was then recalled for the prestigious Northern Ireland Milk Cup at season’s end.
The final push …
With the season moving into its final weeks, the Timbers U-23s battled for a top spot in the Northwest Division. Needing only one point heading into their July 6 showdown with Washington Crossfire to secure their third playoff berth in four years, the Timbers U-23s came away with all three points. A sharply-placed cross from the right side by midfielder Nick Hamer set up Sherrod for a game-winning header in a 1-0 victory, securing the team’s first trip back to the postseason since it won the PDL title in 2010.
Winning four of their last six matches, the Timbers U-23s finished the regular season in second place in the Northwest Division with a record of 10-4-2 (32pts). As the division’s second seed, Portland would play Kitsap for a fourth time during the season, but this time, in a divisional playoff match with a trip to the Western Conference tournament on the line.
In a divisional playoff match on July 15, the Timbers U-23s and Pumas met at Gladstone High School for the second time in seven days. The Timbers U-23s benefitted from the quickest goal scored in team history, coming from Sherrod in the second minute, and a 69th-minute winner from midfielder Roberto Farfan in his first goal of the season to claim a 2-1 win. The Timbers U-23s joined Sounders FC U-23 as the two Northwest Division representatives in the Western Conference tournament.
The Timbers U-23s took the pitch against the Southwest Division-champion Ventura County Fusion in the Western Conference semifinals – a match featuring two of the conference’s top defensive and offensive teams. Scoreless through regulation, Fusion second-half sub Victor Munoz provided the game’s lone goal in the 93rd minute to push the home side to a 1-0 win, ending the Timbers U-23s’ 2012 campaign.
By the numbers
A few highlights and notable moments from the Timbers U-23s 2012 PDL season:
24,026 – Overall, the Timbers U-23s set a new team record for season attendance at 24,026 (3,003/per game), which ranked second among the 73-team PDL.
8,174 – The Timbers U-23s played host to a pair of Health & Fitness School Days during the 2012 season, with each being attended by record-setting numbers. On May 24, the Timbers U-23s first broke the PDL’s single-game attendance record with 8,029 fans; the record was set by the Fresno Fuego on April 29, 2011, at 7,853. Then, eight days later, the Timbers U-23s would further their new record as 8,174 fans attended a 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23s on June 1.
50 – The 2012 campaign featured head coach Jim Rilatt’s 50th match as the head coach of the Timbers U-23s on May 19 in a 4-1 win over Victoria.
35 – The Timbers U-23s shared the lead in the Northwest Division in goals, registering 35 goals in 16 games. Additionally, the team conceded the fewest goals in the division, allowing only 16 goals during the regular season.
11 – Forward Mark Sherrod scored 11 goals during the season and became just the third player in team history to score 10 or more goals in a season, joining Brent Richards (2010) and Ryan Youngblood (2009) in accomplishing the feat.
8 – Midfielder Cam Vickers paced the team with eight assists, finishing in a four-way tie for third in the PDL in assists. His eight assists set the Timbers U-23s’ record for assists in a season.
4 – Forward Erik Hurtado strung together four-straight games with a goal from June 2-25, one short of matching the Timbers U-23s’ mark for consecutive games with a goal.
3 – Among Sherrod’s 11 goals, he scored a hat trick May 19 in a 4-1 win over Victoria Highlanders FC. It was just the fourth hat trick recorded in team history. At season’s end, Sherrod ranked among PDL leaders in goals, points (23) and shots (60).