by: SARAH TOOR, In his sixth season with the Timbers, defender Scot Thompson thinks the team can be tough to score on again this year.

Tough acts to follow: Pele as a teenager in the 1958 World Cup, the Beatles on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in 1964, most any movie headed for a sequel and the Portland Timbers' defense of 2007.

The Timbers set a high standard last season, allowing 18 goals in 28 regular-season games after giving up 39 the year before.

Defender Scot Thompson says the team hopes to do even better this season.

'I want to give up fewer goals,' he says. 'But if we win the championship and give up more, that would be OK.'

Even with much of the team returning, shutting down opponents (the Timbers posted 18 shutouts in 34 total games) might not be as easy this time around.

'I think a lot of teams didn't take us very seriously at the start of last season, especially with how many goals we had let in the year before,' Thompson says. 'This year, I see teams taking more effort in trying to break us down and figuring out how to attack us.'

The Timbers are replacing last year's goalkeeper, Josh Wicks, who is vying for the starting job with the Los Angeles Galaxy at the next level, Major League Soccer. Who plays goal for Portland doesn't matter, in a way, to Thompson and the other defenders.

'We took it upon ourselves to make sure that no shots on Josh were going to come from 25 yards on in,' Thompson says. 'I don't want our goalkeeper to have to stop a lot of shots, no matter who he is.'

Thompson, 27, is the veteran of the squad, having played the last five years here. He appreciates the new continuity on the roster.

'I haven't had this type of stability since college,' he says.

Thompson and his wife, Meredith, were married Feb. 17 and honeymooned in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, 'with the 70-somethings - very relaxing' before camp. The couple is expecting a child Aug. 30; they'll find out April 10 if it's a boy or girl. 'I'm hoping for a girl,' Thompson says. 'I know I was a handful growing up. I thank my dad every day for putting up with me.'

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