Photo by ISIphotos.com
By MIKE DONOVAN
BEAVERTON, Ore. – In the first four months of the 2013 season, the Portland Timbers lost just once in all competitions. Since the calendar turned to July, Portland has already lost three times.
Still, there is no talk of a slump in the Timbers’ camp.
“Everybody thinks we are in a slump right now. I mean, a slump is when you lose multiple games in a row,” head coach Caleb Porter said. “We’ve not lost two games in a row all season long. We’re the only team in the league that’s not lost two games in a row and we’re the only team in the league that’s lost only three games in the league.”
While the club has gone through a lag with one win in its last six total matches, Porter is not worried about the attitude of the players.
“These guys never lose an edge. We’ve built them to be alpha dogs. We built them to be aggressive and confident and proactive and to not back down,” Porter said. “You see that in every game. We’ve lost four games in 26 all competitions, and yet, we’re feeling like it’s not good enough, which is great because we’ve created a standard here and an expectation and that’s what you want. Winning clubs have that.”
After playing four of their last six games on the road, Portland’s schedule now seems to favor the club. The Timbers have seven of their final 12 games at home and only have one match outside the Pacific time zone (vs. Real Salt Lake on Aug. 30).
“This thing is going to take shape in the next 12 games and it’s important that we do everything we can, especially with the seven home games, to get three points (each time),” Porter said.
Portland currently finds itself fourth in the Western Conference standings, having played fewer games than each team above them. The tight race puts the Timbers just one point out of second, but also just two points clear of the team in seventh place, FC Dallas.
For Porter, the most important thing for Portland is to not worry about the other teams in the league, but to continue to play their style of soccer.
“We’re going to respect every opponent we play, but we’re not going to respect them so much that we start backing down and start changing what we’ve done to get points at this point,” Porter said.
Here are more notes from Timbers’ camp:
PLAYING FC DALLAS, AGAIN
Including a preseason tournament match at Jeld-Wen Field and the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match, Saturday will be the fifth time the Timbers and FC Dallas have played in 2013. It will also mark the final time the clubs will play this season, unless they match up in the playoffs.
“We’ve played them a couple of times now. I think they are good, but we have enough to get three points from the game, especially playing at home,” goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts said.
The Timbers have gotten results in every league or cup match they have played against Dallas this season, including two victories in an 11-day span in June. The familiarity might be crucial for Portland as they look to return to their winning ways.
“They present pretty much the same challenge they did the first few times we played them,” said Michael Harrington. “They’re a talented group, they’ve got some talent payers, some good attacking players that we’ll have to manage, but we’re confident and we got the best of them the last few times we played them, so we’ll try to do the same.”
A FULLBACK CONTRAST
In their last three matches, the Timbers have started three different fullbacks on the opposite side of Michael Harrington. Jack Jewsbury, Alvas Powell, and Ryan Miller have all seen their name called in recent matches.
That is a stark contrast to the other side of the defense, where Harrington has been a consistent piece in the Timbers successful season. Harrington has missed just one match this year and has given Portland a reliable leader in the defense, someone who can also make his way towards the attack.
“I like to always be vocal,” said Harrington. “I learned that in Kansas City, Peter Vermes is a very vocal guy, he was a defender, and it was one of the biggest things I took away from him, that the communication coming from those guys in the back is crucial.
“It puts everybody in front of you in the right spots and defensively sets you up very nicely. I try to always be that way.”
Harrington’s leadership will be crucial as Portland might have a 21-year-old in Andrew Jean-Baptiste and the 19-year-old Powell in the back four in upcoming matches. With 170 MLS matches under his belt, Harrington has played almost five times the amount of MLS matches as Powell, Jean-Baptiste, and the other starting defender, Pa Modou Kah, have combined.
What do you make Porter’s comments downplaying the slump talk? Do you see Portland beating FC Dallas? How important a figure will Harrington be in the upcoming matches?
Share your thoughts below.