|Teams head out onto the pitch to kick off the NW Division campaign this weekend | Photos: Gerald Barnhart|
First, the composition of the division has gone from six to eight clubs with the Portland Rain (supported by the MLS Timbers last year) closing up shop for good with the Timbers ownership investing in the NWSL Portland Thorns. In their place, two new clubs, Tualatin Hills United SC and the Westside Timbers, joined up to bring the Oregon group to four. The Washington contingent is also now at four with the addition of AC Seattle, an Italian-focused club.
The new composition brought along with it a new postseason format as there will now be a division playoff. The top two clubs each from Washington and Oregon will move onto the postseason with the playoff event hosted by the higher-seeded Washington side in 2013 and Oregon’s top seed playing host to the division championship in 2014.
Three clubs will have new looks in 2013 to varying degrees. Starting with the smallest change, the Spokane Shine have introduced a new color and logo package this year in a season of change that also includes a new home venue and coach. Issaquah SC will be modifying their name to Seattle Reign FC Reserves presented by Issaquah SC, and are reportedly wearing Reign kits with the ISC logo. The biggest change will be the complete brand overhaul from Oregon Rush to Bend FC Timbers, a change elicited by the club becoming a part of the Timbers Alliance that was made official May 1 with the logo and name change.
Club changes for Spokane and Bend were not just cosmetic. The Shine brought in local youth coach Dan Philp to replace the departed Jason Quintero, who left for a position with Moscow United youth club, and Kyle Steinbaugh, the Director of Coaching, stepping aside from the WPSL responsibilities with the February appointment of new Technical Director Tara Erickson, a University of Washington product that has coached at Portland State and the University of Oregon.