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RSL vs. Portland Timbers: Three Preseason Questions with Stumptown Footy

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We establish that Nat Borchers is a legend, Darlington Nagbe is very good, and Portland’s feeling confident.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Timbers had an awesome title run in 2015. Last season wasn't so wonderful. What's the biggest thing you're looking for in 2017 so it doesn't mirror 2016?

Looking back at 2016, one thing stands out: the Timbers gave up 53 goals on the season, more than any other team in the Western Conference.

There were plenty of factors that played into the Timbers' struggles on defense — injuries across the back line and in the midfield, a failure to adequately replace left back Jorge Villafana and left winger Rodney Wallace, and the team's puzzling mental block on the road all come to mind — and how well the team has addressed them remains to be seen.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake
Luis Silva and Rodney Wallace battle for position
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The left flank should be covered with mid-season Vytas having adjusted well to MLS by the end of the season and the Timbers should feel good about their midfield with new offseason additions Sebastian Blanco and David Guzman joining the team (as well as the persistent rumor that Wallace himself will make a return). Injuries, however, continue to be a potential issue, with projected starter Gbenga Arokoyo set to miss the season due to a ruptured achilles tendon. Thankfully, word is that the Timbers are set to replace Arokoyo on the roster before the start of the season.

So, have the Timbers gotten their defense squared away? It might yet take some time to gel, but there is every reason to believe that the team can get it together.

Darlington Nagbe. Rumors about a move to Celtic. Accusations of him being played out of position. Strong showings with the USMNT. What should we expect?

Darlington Nagbe plays well every game. He won't always score you the goal of the year — although he certainly can — but he will always connect a whole lot of passes, maintain possession of the ball, play surprisingly good defense, and create a few chances for the players around him.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Expect that. Every game.

Of course, with Nagbe you need to expect the unexpected, too. Sometimes he does score very nice goals. Sometimes he turns on a dime and leaves a defender or three in his dust. Sometimes he will do so many nice things in succession that your head will spin.

Expect Nagbe to track back. Expect Nagbe to get forward. Expect Nagbe to cut inside.

Just don't expect Nagbe to use his left foot. Except when he does.

Nat Borchers is an RSL legend. Is he a Timbers legend, too?

Nat Borchers is a legend. Period. Just look at that beard.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, in his two years with the Timbers, Borchers was a committed defender, a keen observer of the game, and a great interview. He brought consistency and commitment to the Timbers' back line, and he once gave an entire interview in character as his beard.

He was always willing to put his body on the line to stop a chance or block a shot.

And when the Timbers were on their way to the 2015 MLS Cup Final, he came up with THE block.

Yes, Nat Borchers is a Timbers legend.

And what's more, Nat is sticking around and joining the Timbers' broadcasting team, so there is every possibility that the legend of Nat Borchers is just beginning in Portland.