Match Preview

What to know as the Timbers' 13th MLS season kicks off


MATCH UPDATE: Due to severe winter weather in the Portland area, this game has been postponed to Monday, Feb. 27. This article has been updated to reflect the change. Read more here

As February 27 approaches at last, the Portland Timbers are preparing for what could be a rejuvenating 2023 MLS season. The bare minimum expectation, as head coach Giovanni Savarese has said, is playoffs. But the ambitions of the team extend far beyond that.

With a big test right out of the gate, the matchup will serve as an indicator as to the style of soccer the 2023 squad will bring. "I want our fans to feel proud of us for representing [the club] in the correct form," said head coach Giovanni Savarese this week. "we want to go back to being competitive, return to MLS Cup, and hopefully lift it in the end”.

Here's what to know ahead of Monday's kickoff (Watch free on the Apple TV app):

“The magic will happen naturally."

New general manager Ned Grabavoy entered into his role with a bang, inking a club record signing to a Designated Player slot: Evander, a Brazilian talent unlike anything seen in Portland’s MLS existence. Evander da Silva Ferreira brings in a wealth of knowledge and experience from one of the top leagues in South America in the Brasileirao with Vasco Da Gama, and performances in the most competitive tournaments in today’s game, the Europa and UEFA Champions League where he recorded five goals and seven assists in 27 appearances repping Denmark’s FC Midtjylland.

Evander scored or was involved in goals in all three 2023 Coachella Valley Invitational matches this preseason, and heads into Saturday's home clash in great form. Savarese had high praise for the new playmaker this week, saying, “He’s been working really well with the group, I think everyone is excited to see him in action”.

“The magic will happen naturally," added Evander. "My goal is to do my role on the field the best way, and the magic will happen in a lot of matches during the season," he said this week. "My goal is to win, every game, and [we’ll] keep that in our minds”.

Familiar faces

Evander joins a squad with familiar faces: Core players such as club captain and legend Diego Chara, breakout youngsters like Santiago Moreno and Juan David Mosquera, and intriguing talents like Justin Rasmussen and Zac McGraw are ready for 2023. And, on the bench, there's also forward Felipe Mora and defender Claudio Bravo, awaiting a return to the field from injuries.

Diego Chara enters his 13th season, being the only player left from Portland’s inaugural 2011 campaign. When asked about how he sees the club taking shape with the offseason moves, he emphasized the significance that every player, from starters to reserves, will have throughout the year. “The youngsters are hungry for an opportunity, it seems everyone in the squad is ready to participate at any point over this long season," he said. "The supporters are a big motivation for us, they are there for us at all times”.

One significant player that the Timbers will not have available will be club veteran Dairon Asprilla, who sustained a knee injury requiring surgery during the preseason. “He’s already one week ahead," Savarese said. "Hopefully he continues doing well so he can be available [soon] also.”

What can be expected from Sporting Kansas City?

With 34 matches to show their worth, the Timbers will have to go to battle with SKC on Matchday 1, the visitors paying a visit to the City of Roses for a season opening match for the first time.

With anchors like goalkeeper Tim Melia and captain Johnny Russell, Kansas City is sure to step onto the Providence Park turf seeking to secure all three points on the road. SKC head coach Peter Vermes, one of the winningest head coaches in MLS history, will seek to strategize that.

Portland enters the home opener seeking its 7th victory in its home debut across all MLS seasons, owning a respectable 6-2-4 record since entering the league in 2011. Kansas City pays a visit having an impressive opening day record themselves with 15 wins, 10 of those being on the road (most all-time in MLS history).

Can the Timbers hit the ground running?

With Portland’s undefeated preseason at the Coachella Valley Invitational in Indio, CA (2-0-1) as an insight on what the team’s potential could be in 2023, it is with great anticipation that Soccer City awaits their boys in green and gold for the first time at home.

An emphatic win against the LA Galaxy helped set the preseason tempo, as new designated player Evander scored his first competitive goal for the club, with Cristhian Paredes, Juan David Mosquera (also netting his first competitive goal for Portland) and Jaroslaw Niezgoda adding to the onslaught in what would be a 4-1 result. Just three days later, the Timbers laced them up again in a match with Toronto FC, with an opportunity for the younger guys on the squad to get some starting minutes. A rough first half had Portland down 2-0, but some Brazilian magic in the second half helped secure a come-from-behind draw with Nathan Fogaça and Evander tallying the goals for a 2-2 scoreline. It was Evander’s second goal in 60 minutes of action. Preseason wrapped up with a hard-fought 1-0 win against New York City FC, the lone goal coming off a corner with a Zac McGraw header assisted by the one and only Evander.