The Portland Timbers arrived in Tucson on Monday after a week spent in Costa Rica, where they opened preseason play with two games.
The Timbers will play four matches at the Mobile Mini Sun Cup, starting with Wednesday’s showdown against the Pacific Northwest rival Seattle Sounders. The match starts at 7 p.m. at Kino North Stadium and follows a 4 p.m. game between the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City.
Then they’ll hit the road again — until June.
The Major League Soccer team’s home, Portland’s Providence Park, is in the final stages of a two-year, $85 million renovation. Because of the construction, the Timbers will play their first 12 games of the MLS season on the road. Their home opener, against Los Angeles FC, is scheduled for June 1.
“We know the season will be hard for us,” midfielder Diego Chara said. “The first 12 games are going to be away, and I think the team is ready for that challenge.”
The Timbers will return to an even larger home-field advantage. The team is adding 4,000 seats, raising Providence Park’s capacity to more than 25,000. The added capacity will help accommodate at least some of the Timbers’ season ticket waiting list, which totals more than 15,000.
The Timbers have sold out every home game since joining the league in 2011.
“The extra seats that are going to make our plays be even more exciting because our fans are fantastic and having an extra 4,000 is unbelievable,” Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said. “I think it’s going to be special for sure. Every time we play at home, it’s special — but now, (with) the renovations, it’s going to be greater. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Timbers say they’ll feel at home during their time in Tucson. The Mobile Mini Sun Cup has been a part of their preseason routine since 2013. Portland played six preseason matches here a year ago, going 2-2-2. The Timbers then played a long, emotional season. They made the MLS playoffs as a No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, then made a run all the way to the MLS Cup Final, where they lost to Atlanta United FC, 2-0. The championship match was played Dec. 8, more than five weeks after the playoffs began.
“I think it has been good for us to come here,” Savarese said. “I think the facilities are great. We have everything that we need. The weather is perfect. I think it has all the good things that we want for a preseason to be worth it.”
Added Chara: “Right now, for us, Tucson is like a home because I’ve spent seven years doing the preseason here.”
Wednesday’s match will come against a well-known rival. Chara said he’s looking forward to seeing better control on the pitch. Savarese just wants to see the team put the work in.
“We want to compete every game,” Savarese said. “We’re a team that it doesn’t matter if we play ourselves, we have to compete. And we’ll compete every time that we play against a rival.”
• FC Tucson announced Wednesday that it has signed midfielder Luis Martinez for the upcoming season. Martinez played for FC Tucson of the USL PDL in 2015, scoring five goals in 18 games. He was named the club’s MVP. FC Tucson has signed 14 players for the 2019 season, its first in the professional USL League One.
• One of the teams training in Tucson, the New York Red Bulls, have signed Danish forward Mathias Jorgensen to a multiyear contract. The MLS said Tuesday that it used targeted allocation money to complete the transfer of the Jorgensen from Odense. The 18-year-old is a member of Denmark’s under-19 national team. Jorgensen will be added to the roster after his paperwork is finalized.