Photo courtesy of Portland Timbers
By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore. – The rivalry between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders has stretched 38 years, multiple leagues and has featured numerous memorable moments for both clubs. And while that is at the forefront of any Pacific Northwest rivalry match, this one holds additional meaning for new head coach Caleb Porter.
“I have a great appreciation for the rivalry, for the fans. I’ve studied it and researched it,” Porter said Thursday afternoon.
With the history as a backdrop, Porter knows that much will be made of Saturday’s matchup with the Timbers rivals to the north. While at his introductory press conference he has referenced the Seattle match as “just another game”, his tune has changed slightly in the buildup this week.
“Its a 34-game season, so every game is important,” Porter said. “But this one takes on a whole different meaning. Not only to myself, to my team, but the fans.”
It will be both Porter’s first taste of the Cascadia Cup rivalry and his first away match as a professional coach. Porter is looking to turn around the club’s road record. Since joining the MLS in 2011, the Timbers have just 3 wins and 10 draws in their 34 matches away from the friendly confines of Jeld-Wen Field.
Surprisingly, Portland has showed well in its away matches against its Pacific Northwest rivals. In four matches at Vancouver or Seattle, the Timbers have two wins, a draw, and one loss. The Timbers, however, are looking for their first win in Seattle since joining the MLS.
“We are going to relish the opportunity to go into CenturyLink and try to get the first win there in the club’s (MLS) history,” Porter said.
Since Porter’s arrival in Portland, he has made it a point of not looking back at the previous 2 MLS seasons. When it comes to the Seattle rivalry, he understands that one team has been the victor more times than not.
“If you are looking at the past, and the accomplishments of the Sounders, they are clearly the team that is favored,” Porter said. “The nice thing is games aren’t decided on the past”
TIMBERS LOOK TO IMPROVE DEFENSE
While on the offensive end of the pitch the Timbers have found success early in the season, their defense has left something to be desired. On one hand, Portland leads the league in goals scored and shots taken, while on the other hand, they also lead the league in goals allowed.
Because of that, defense and specifically not giving up good goal-scoring opportunities, has been the talk of this week’s practices, according to Porter.
“We have given up goals and shot ourselves in the foot in a few moments. We haven’t given up a ton of chances, but the chances we’ve given up have been quality chances, Porter said. “That’s been a pattern, a trend we’ve seen over the first two games and based on that trend, we’ve emphasized that side of the ball this week.”
The Timbers are still without David Horst, who started 20 games at centerback last season for the Timbers, who is out with a hip injury. Fellow centerback Hanyer Mosquera returned from a preseason injury to practice last week, while longest-tenured Timber Futty Danso has yet to be included in the gameday 18. Danso scored the only Timber goal in its previous two MLS visits to Seattle.
PIQUIONNE ARRIVES IN PORTLAND
Frederic Piquionne, who was signed during the preseason, finally made his practice debut as a signed member of the club on Tuesday. The hold-up was due to Piquionne needing to receive his visa in France.
Piquionne could provide some much needed depth to the Timbers, who have played with only two true forwards in their first two league matches. Johnson has started both matches, while Colombian Jose Adolfo Valencia has appeared off the bench in each game.
The well-traveled Piquionne, who played in two preseason matches for the Timbers as a trialist, has played internationally for both France and non-FIFA nation Martinique. HIs most recent club stints were for English clubs Doncaster Rovers (on loan) and West Ham United.