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SCORESHEET/Expansion game has changed for league, and Timbers and their fans played a role in that

With MLS announcing that Nashville, Tennessee, will join by 2020, it makes us wonder if Portland would be a candidate for an expansion club today.

We have our doubts.

Sure, supporters here deserve credit for catching the attention of MLS back when the Timbers were playing lower-division soccer. But it was the explosive success of the Sounders in Seattle that placed Portland on MLS' radar.

In 2009, Merritt Paulson paid a $40 million expansion fee to buy into the single-entity business that is MLS.

Nashville's owners will pay a reported $150 million, and the price could eclipse $200 million before expansion is exhausted.

Maybe Portland's market size (25th-largest media market in the country) and the lack of competing pro sports teams would interest enough outside investors that soccer would happen. But we don't see our city paying to build a soccer-specific stadium, one of the stated requirements for MLS expansion.

Timing, of course, is everything. The Timbers are thriving. With a season-ticket waiting list north of 10,000, the club has started an expansion project that will add 4,000 seats to Providence Park by 2019.

Go ahead and take a bow, soccer supporters. Because while we wonder if Portland would have missed out on soccer had MLS not come to town when it did, we also wonder if uber-rich folks would be ponying up such large fees to join if not for the bump that Portland's passionate fans gave the league.

• Nashville was the first winner among four finalists to join MLS in 2020. Detroit, Cincinnati and Sacramento are the others. Expect one of those cities to be granted a franchise very soon.

• Meanwhile, the Timbers continue preparing for their eighth MLS season. Last week they announced that Giovanni Savarese will be their new coach. The 46-year-old Venezuelan coached the New York Cosmos to three titles in five seasons in the North American Soccer League. 

Savarese won't coach his first home match until April 14, when Minnesota United visits Providence Park. The Timbers open the season on March 4 at the L.A. Galaxy, then visit the New York Red Bulls on March 10. The Timbers' home opener is delayed by construction work at the stadium.

The trip to New York will be a quick homecoming for Savarese, who played for that franchise in the early years of MLS — scoring the first goal in franchise history. The hire drew praise on social media from a wide range of soccer pundits.

• Portland Winterhawks who rank in the top five in Western Hockey League stats: goalie Cole Kehler (second in save percentage, .925, and tied for fourth in wins, 18); defenseman Henri Jokiharju (fifth in power-play assists, 16, and tied for fourth in plus-minus, plus-27); forward Cody Glass (tied for first in first goals, five); and forward Skyler McKenzie (second in insurance goals, six).

• The Portland Pickles' first game in the West Coast League will be June 1 at home (Walker Stadium) against the Port Angeles Lefties.

The Pickles have a new manager — their third in three seasons — in Justin Barchus, who managed the Gresham GreyWolves the past two seasons. The GreyWolves will play as an independent this year, and have been taken over by the Pickles' owners, Rose City Baseball.

• The Hillsboro Hops are bringing back Shawn Roof to manage their 2018 Class A Northwest League season. Mike Parrott will be the pitching coach for the third year in a row, and Micah Franklin is the club's new hitting coach. The Hops open June 15 at Everett. The home opener at Ron Tonkin Field is June 20 against Eugene.

• Lara Tennant of Portland has been named the 2017 Oregon Golf Association women's player of the year. Tennant won the Oregon Senior Women's Amateur and Oregon Women's Mid-Amateur. She was co-medalist and top seed in the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur at Waverley Country Club, her home course. She also tied for third in the Oregon Women's Stroke Play Championship and was fifth in the OGA Tournament of Champions.


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