By MIKE DONOVAN
The Portland Timbers are in the midst of their worst scoring stretch of the season and are coming off just their third loss this year, but Timbers head coach Caleb Porter is not that concerned about his team’s offense.
Portland has just three goals in their last four matches, but Saturday’s match saw the club attempt 20 shots on San Jose, the most for a road match this season.
“We didn’t do a good enough job finishing. Certainly we need to sort that out this week and get our box-attacking, our finishing in the final third, our confidence and composure in-and-around goal, sorted out,” Porter said. “But it’s a good problem when you are getting chances, but we have to be more clinical.”
The Timbers are currently in the thick of the Western Conference standings. Three more points and the Timbers would be tied for first, three less points and the club would find itself on the outside of the five teams that make the postseason.
While the Timbers were shut out just once in their first 15 games, they have been held scoreless three times in their last six. Ryan Johnson, however, echoes his coach regarding the club’s offensive output.
“It’d be a bad thing if you weren’t creating those chances. Because we are creating those chances on a consistent basis, there is no reason to worry,” said Johnson, whose six goals are tied for the team lead with Will Johnson and Darlington Nagbe. “Because we’ve shown every game, we’re going to create chances and get those shots on the board.”
With only three losses, it is no surprise that the Timbers are one of three MLS clubs (along with Montreal and Philadelphia) that haven’t lost consecutive matches this season. On numerous occasions since his arrival, Porter has talked about his philosophy of never getting too high or too low following a match. His example is not lost on his players.
“We try to keep an even keel mindset whether we win, lose, or draw. I think that is what you have to do in a long season like this,” midfielder Ben Zemanski said. “You’re going to have ups-and-downs, but as long as you keep that mindset, your play isn’t going to fluctuate that much.”
Next up for Timbers is a Cascadia Cup clash with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Portland are the current holders of the regional trophy that also includes the Seattle Sounders. While the US Open Cup semifinals is just a week away, the Timbers are solely focused on Vancouver.
“We need to keep our heads up and get three points Saturday,” Frederic Piquionne said. “After that, we will see what has happen for the rest.”
Vancouver is coming off consecutive losses and has yet to beat Portland since the teams joined MLS in 2011. The clubs first match this season ended in a 2-2 stalemate after Jose Adolfo Valencia scored a late equalizer for the Timbers.
Diego Chara, who missed his first game of the season Saturday with a toe injury, hasn’t returned to full practice yet and his status for the Vancouver matchup is unknown. If the Colombian is unable to go, Zemanski will likely get the start in his place.
The Timbers centerback injuries continued as Futty Danso injured his left foot during the club’s friendly against Norwich City. In his absence, Rauwshan McKenzie is now the main reserve for the club at centerback. Portland has already lost David Horst and Mikael Silvestre this season, due to injuries.