BY MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- For the the first time in their short MLS tenure, the Portland Timbers are preparing for a matchup that will involve two teams at the top of the conference standings.
And despite being in new surroundings, Portland and their coach Caleb Porter are comfortable heading on the road to play the Western Conference-leading FC Dallas.
“We have a lot of confidence going into this game because we have been very good on the road, we know they have been very good at home,” Porter said. “The guys are feeling good.”
That road record had been a big change for Portland. In their first 2 MLS seasons, the Timbers had a combined road record of 3-21-10. This season the club is 1-0-3 away from home and is the only MLS team that hasn’t lost a match away from home.
In the past, however, Pizza Hut Park has been a house-of-horrors for Portland. The two largest defeats in the club’s MLS history have happened in Dallas with the club dropping a 5-0 result last season and a 4-0 game the season before.
In spite of the past, the club’s recent form (seven straight unbeaten) has given Portland a boost.
“We feel good, we know it will be a tough test. They’re at the top of the table in the Western Conference. And we are tied for second, its a great chance for us to make up ground on them,” Porter said. “Its important that we have a good result.”
While the club looks ahead to Dallas, their lack of goals in their last match out might be a concern for most teams. However, Porter doesn’t seem worried after Portland was shutout for the first time in 2013.
“I think we played well enough to get the win, so we’re not overthinking things or questioning ourselves. We’re more saying we can be a notch better and I think that helps us going into this game,” Porter said.
Despite the lack of goals, the Timbers 22 shots against New England tied a franchise record.
CENTERBACK INJURIES, SIGNINGS
With Mikael Silvestre out for the season after undergoing knee surgery, the Timbers newly signed Pa-Madou Kah might see the field sooner than the club had originally expected. However, Kah will not be featured in Wednesday’s match.
The Norwegian International is yet to receive his International Transfer Certificate and hasn’t practiced with the club. If he receives his ITC before the weekend, he could be in the 18 for Portland’s Mother’s Day match with Chivas USA.
Silvestre’s injury and Kah’s lack of ITC, means Dylan Tucker-Gangnes will likely be the backup to Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Futty Danso against Dallas. The rookie was on the bench for the first six games of the season, but is yet to play in a league match.
The likely combination of Jean-Baptiste and Danso will be the Timbers fifth-different starting centerback combination in the first ten matches this season.