Next: Portland plays Major League Soccer expansion team San Jose at 7:30 p.m. Friday at University of Portland. The Eathquakes are coming off a sweep in the Carolina Challenge Cup, with wins of 1-0 over Toronto, 2-1 over Charleston and 3-0 over New York. The Pilot men will play San Jose's reserves at 5 p.m.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, the Timbers will take on Gonzaga at the new, $11 million Lincoln Park Stadium in Forest Grove.

• The Timbers were bracing Monday for the loss of either goalie Josh Wicks or forward Bryan Jordan, or both, to the L.A. Galaxy's 18-man roster. Both looked good in preseason, and while the news wouldn't be a shock, it would be a blow to Portland's preparations for a season that begins April 17.

On the plus side, defender Justin Thompson is expected back soon; he has been out of camp while tending to a new business venture.

Trailists remaining are 6-2 defender Scott Bolkan, a South Salem High product whose career at Stanford ended last fall; Maurice Hughes, a 6-1 forward who has played for Atlanta; and goalkeeper Sam Reynolds, who was with Portland in 2005.

• Portland midfielder Neil Dombrowski, who turned 24 last week, is visibly lighter from head to toe this year. Dombrowski looks like he's been on a diet, and he's wearing his hair shorter than he did last season, which ended for him when he hurt his right knee colliding with Justin Thompson on Aug. 26 at Puerto Rico.

The 6-foot Dombrowski says he was a little too heavy last season and is fitter this year, having dropped 6 pounds to reach 175.

'Before last year, I was working a 40-hour-a-week job from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. This offseason, I had more time to get ready for soccer,' he says.

The knee was fixed with arthroscopic surgery Dec. 16. 'They scraped out some loose cartilage,' he says.

Dombrowski says it was 'a bit disappointing' to miss the final two regular-season games and playoffs of 2007, 'but overall, it was great to be a part of the team and a great season.'

He says the 2008 Timbers could be even better, abilitywise.

'I think the overall quality of the team is greatly improved,' he says. 'And we've still got great character guys, and everybody gets along. A bit part of our success last year was the camaraderie.'

• The Carolina RailHawks could have a 2-1 Dombrowski man advantage on the Timbers this year. Neil's brothers - Chad, 27, and Zeke, 21 - both could see action for Carolina. Chad, a defender, is coming off surgery to repair a broken foot bone. Zeke is a rookie from Wisconsin-Madison who is trying out for the team.

The other Dombrowski brother is Tighe, a 25-year-old defender/midfielder who has been loaned by San Jose to USL First Division Minnesota.

• Newly signed goalkeeper Jordan James is blessed -if you can call it that -with three first names; his middle name is Michael. It sometimes causes confusion when he pulls out his identification, but he's gotten used to it.

'My dad named me Jordan,' he says. 'He told my mom that he saw a sign on the way to the hospital that said 'Jordan Road.' A couple of months later, he admitted that he really picked Jordan because he wanted to name me after Michael Jordan.'

• The Timbers say that both team benches will be on the west side of the stadium this season. Historically, benches have been along the east sideline, except for televised matches (it's easier to run TV cables from the press box to the west side). Also, the teams will sit in sheltered benches. The new, covered seating will give Timber home games more of a big-time soccer look, although they will obstruct the view somewhat from the field-level beer garden.

- Steve Brandon

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