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Portland Timbers

by: , HIGGINS

Next: The preseason concludes with a 7 p.m. Friday match at the University of Portland against the Pilot men.

• GM-coach Gavin Wilkinson says the Timbers will have 24 players under contract; as of Monday morning, it had 17, not including players such as goalkeeper Ray Burse, on loan from FC Dallas of Major League Soccer. 'We'll be adding another defender, midfielder and upfront player in the next week or so,' Wilkinson says.

• Wilkinson says the Timbers look 'very similar' to last year on defense and in midfield. The midfield includes Andrew Gregor, Shaun Higgins, Lawrence Olum, Neil Dombrowski, Miguel Guante, Kiki Lara, Troy Ready and Arsene Oka. 'We have enough experience in midfield, and there's definite ability,' Wilkinson says. 'I thought Higgins had a tremendous season last year.'

• The key for 2008 remains scoring more goals than Portland did last year. 'Our strength last year was consolidating in the back and getting numbers behind the ball,' Wilkinson says. 'We're a lot stronger up front now, with Chris Bagley healthy and the addition of Takayuki Suzuki and Chris Brown, and more players to come. We're not going to have as much speed up front, though, so we have to look at taking care of the ball in the attacking half.'

• Seattle announced the name of its Major League Soccer expansion franchise Monday. In an online poll to determine the winner, fans voted on three choices - Seattle FC, Seattle Republic and Seattle Alliance - with write-ins allowed. The team went with Seattle Sounders FC.

Many fans wanted the new team to carry the Sounders name that has accompanied pro soccer in the Emerald City for more than 30 years. MLS Commissioner Dan Garber ignited the debate with a recent news release in which he said: 'While we should celebrate the past, we believe the MLS Seattle team should be about where we are headed tomorrow and help position the club globally.' And Gary Wright, recently hired as senior vice president of business operations for the Seattle MLS team, said not having the Sounders on the online ballot 'was in a lot of ways the league wanting to have a new start, something fresh. That was their preference.'

MLS spokesman Dan Courtemance, however, says reports that the league did not want the team to be called the Sounders 'are not correct.' He says MLS 'does not have a policy that rules out former soccer team nicknames,' noting that San Jose was allowed to use Earthquakes, the name of its North American Soccer League team in the 1970s and early '80s.

With Portland vying to be the next city for MLS expansion, owner Merritt Paulson says, 'I think the likelihood is that we'd retain the Timbers name. … We have a lot of equity in it. I'm not sure Seattle had the same amount of equity. Seattle's a great soccer market, but that's not been one of the most successful USL teams in terms of attendance. Timbers is a great brand here and a well-known brand.'

- Steve Brandon