Western Conference Season Preview Capsules

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PORTLAND TIMBERS

LAST YEAR: 14-15-5 (Third overall, first in Western Conference).

WHO‘S BACK: MF Jack Jewsbury, MF Darlington Nagbe, MF Will Johnson, MF Diego Valeri, MF Diego Chara, GK Donovan Ricketts, D Rodney Wallace, D Pa Modou Kah, D Michael Harrington, F Maximiliano Urruti.

WHO‘S GONE: D David Horst, D Andre Jean-Baptiste, D Ryan Miller, D Mikael Silvestre, MF Sal Zizzo, F Jose Valencia.

WHO‘S NEW: F Gaston Fernandez, D Norberto Paparatto, MF Steve Zakuani, D Jorge Villafana.

WHAT’S AHEAD: The Portland Timbers lost just five games last season, a dramatic 23-game turnaround from the previous season, and finished atop the Western Conference for the franchise’s first-ever playoff appearance. The Timbers went to the conference finals where they fell to rival Real Salt Lake. Portland expects to build on that success under coach Caleb Porter, who was named the MLS Coach of the Year his first season in the league. The nucleus of that team remains largely intact, including Goalkeeper of the Year Donavan Ricketts, top scorer Diego Valeri and All-Star Will Johnson. Forward Rodney Wallace had surgery in December to repair a torn right ACL and is expected to miss five to seven months. The Timbers will also play in the U.S. Open Cup and will make their first appearance in the CONCACAF Championship League. If that wasn’t enough attention on the team, Portland will also host the MLS All-Star game on Aug. 6, with the All-Stars facing Bayern Munich. Porter will coach the MLS side.

REAL SALT LAKE

LAST YEAR: 16-10-8 ( Fourth overall, second in the Western Conference).

WHO‘S BACK: GK Nick Rimando, D Kyle Beckerman, F Alvaro Saborio, D Nat Borchers, F Robbie Findley, F Joao Plata, MF Luis Gil.

WHO‘S GONE: D Lovel Palmer, MF Khari Stephenson, D Brandon McDonald, GK Josh Saunders.

WHO‘S NEW: MF Luke Mulholland, D/M Jordan Allen.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Real Salt Lake promoted assistant coach Jeff Cassar to replace Jason Kreis, who stepped down after nine seasons with the club to become coach of the expansion New York City FC. A former goalkeeper, the 39-year-old Cassar has been with Real Salt Lake since 2007. Cassar takes over a team that went all the way to the MLS Cup, falling in the end to Sporting KC on a shootout. It’s understandable that the Western Conference champions would not make a whole lot of offseason changes. The team hopes to see big things from Alvaro Saborio, who led the team with 12 goals - despite playing in just 16 league matches because of international absences and injuries. Injuries are already impacting Real Salt Lake this season in advance of their opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy, with forwards Robbie Findley and Devon Sandoval sitting out.

LA GALAXY

LAST YEAR: 15-11-8 (Fifth overall, third in Western Conference).

WHO‘S BACK: F Robbie Keane, M Landon Donovan, D Omar Gonzalez, M Robbie Rogers, D A.J. DeLaGarza, F Gyasi Zardes, D Todd Dunivant, M Juninho, D Leonardo, F Jack McBean, D Tommy Meyer, G Jaime Penedo, M Marcelo Sarvas.

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